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2020


A little damping goes a long way: a simulation study of how damping influences task-level stability in running
A little damping goes a long way: a simulation study of how damping influences task-level stability in running

Heim, S., Millard, M., Mouel, C. L., Badri-Spröwitz, A.

Biology Letters, 16(9), September 2020 (article)

Abstract
It is currently unclear if damping plays a functional role in legged locomotion, and simple models often do not include damping terms. We present a new model with a damping term that is isolated from other parameters: that is, the damping term can be adjusted without retuning other model parameters for nominal motion. We systematically compare how increased damping affects stability in the face of unexpected ground-height perturbations. Unlike most studies, we focus on task-level stability: instead of observing whether trajectories converge towards a nominal limit-cycle, we quantify the ability to avoid falls using a recently developed mathematical measure. This measure allows trajectories to be compared quantitatively instead of only being separated into a binary classification of ‘stable' or ‘unstable'. Our simulation study shows that increased damping contributes significantly to task-level stability; however, this benefit quickly plateaus after only a small amount of damping. These results suggest that the low intrinsic damping values observed experimentally may have stability benefits and are not simply minimized for energetic reasons. All Python code and data needed to generate our results are available open source.

dlg ics

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2020


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Event-triggered Learning
Event-triggered Learning

Solowjow, F., Trimpe, S.

Automatica, 117, Elsevier, July 2020 (article)

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arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Bayesian Optimization in Robot Learning - Automatic Controller Tuning and Sample-Efficient Methods
Bayesian Optimization in Robot Learning - Automatic Controller Tuning and Sample-Efficient Methods

Marco-Valle, A.

University of Tübingen, June 2020 (thesis)

Abstract
The problem of designing controllers to regulate dynamical systems has been studied by engineers during the past millennia. Ever since, suboptimal performance lingers in many closed loops as an unavoidable side effect of manually tuning the parameters of the controllers. Nowadays, industrial settings remain skeptic about data-driven methods that allow one to automatically learn controller parameters. In the context of robotics, machine learning (ML) keeps growing its influence on increasing autonomy and adaptability, for example to aid automating controller tuning. However, data-hungry ML methods, such as standard reinforcement learning, require a large number of experimental samples, prohibitive in robotics, as hardware can deteriorate and break. This brings about the following question: Can manual controller tuning, in robotics, be automated by using data-efficient machine learning techniques? In this thesis, we tackle the question above by exploring Bayesian optimization (BO), a data-efficient ML framework, to buffer the human effort and side effects of manual controller tuning, while retaining a low number of experimental samples. We focus this work in the context of robotic systems, providing thorough theoretical results that aim to increase data-efficiency, as well as demonstrations in real robots. Specifically, we present four main contributions. We first consider using BO to replace manual tuning in robotic platforms. To this end, we parametrize the design weights of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) and learn its parameters using an information-efficient BO algorithm. Such algorithm uses Gaussian processes (GPs) to model the unknown performance objective. The GP model is used by BO to suggest controller parameters that are expected to increment the information about the optimal parameters, measured as a gain in entropy. The resulting “automatic LQR tuning” framework is demonstrated on two robotic platforms: A robot arm balancing an inverted pole and a humanoid robot performing a squatting task. In both cases, an existing controller is automatically improved in a handful of experiments without human intervention. BO compensates for data scarcity by means of the GP, which is a probabilistic model that encodes prior assumptions about the unknown performance objective. Usually, incorrect or non-informed assumptions have negative consequences, such as higher number of robot experiments, poor tuning performance or reduced sample-efficiency. The second to fourth contributions presented herein attempt to alleviate this issue. The second contribution proposes to include the robot simulator into the learning loop as an additional information source for automatic controller tuning. While doing a real robot experiment generally entails high associated costs (e.g., require preparation and take time), simulations are cheaper to obtain (e.g., they can be computed faster). However, because the simulator is an imperfect model of the robot, its information is biased and could have negative repercussions in the learning performance. To address this problem, we propose “simu-vs-real”, a principled multi-fidelity BO algorithm that trades off cheap, but inaccurate information from simulations with expensive and accurate physical experiments in a cost-effective manner. The resulting algorithm is demonstrated on a cart-pole system, where simulations and real experiments are alternated, thus sparing many real evaluations. The third contribution explores how to adequate the expressiveness of the probabilistic prior to the control problem at hand. To this end, the mathematical structure of LQR controllers is leveraged and embedded into the GP, by means of the kernel function. Specifically, we propose two different “LQR kernel” designs that retain the flexibility of Bayesian nonparametric learning. Simulated results indicate that the LQR kernel yields superior performance than non-informed kernel choices when used for controller learning with BO. Finally, the fourth contribution specifically addresses the problem of handling controller failures, which are typically unavoidable in practice while learning from data, specially if non-conservative solutions are expected. Although controller failures are generally problematic (e.g., the robot has to be emergency-stopped), they are also a rich information source about what should be avoided. We propose “failures-aware excursion search”, a novel algorithm for Bayesian optimization under black-box constraints, where failures are limited in number. Our results in numerical benchmarks indicate that by allowing a confined number of failures, better optima are revealed as compared with state-of-the-art methods. The first contribution of this thesis, “automatic LQR tuning”, lies among the first on applying BO to real robots. While it demonstrated automatic controller learning from few experimental samples, it also revealed several important challenges, such as the need of higher sample-efficiency, which opened relevant research directions that we addressed through several methodological contributions. Summarizing, we proposed “simu-vs-real”, a novel BO algorithm that includes the simulator as an additional information source, an “LQR kernel” design that learns faster than standard choices and “failures-aware excursion search”, a new BO algorithm for constrained black-box optimization problems, where the number of failures is limited.

ics

Repository (Universitätsbibliothek) - University of Tübingen PDF DOI [BibTex]


Data-efficient Auto-tuning with Bayesian Optimization: An Industrial Control Study
Data-efficient Auto-tuning with Bayesian Optimization: An Industrial Control Study

Neumann-Brosig, M., Marco, A., Schwarzmann, D., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology, 28(3):730-740, May 2020 (article)

Abstract
Bayesian optimization is proposed for automatic learning of optimal controller parameters from experimental data. A probabilistic description (a Gaussian process) is used to model the unknown function from controller parameters to a user-defined cost. The probabilistic model is updated with data, which is obtained by testing a set of parameters on the physical system and evaluating the cost. In order to learn fast, the Bayesian optimization algorithm selects the next parameters to evaluate in a systematic way, for example, by maximizing information gain about the optimum. The algorithm thus iteratively finds the globally optimal parameters with only few experiments. Taking throttle valve control as a representative industrial control example, the proposed auto-tuning method is shown to outperform manual calibration: it consistently achieves better performance with a low number of experiments. The proposed auto-tuning framework is flexible and can handle different control structures and objectives.

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arXiv (PDF) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv (PDF) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Sliding Mode Control with Gaussian Process Regression for Underwater Robots

Lima, G. S., Trimpe, S., Bessa, W. M.

Journal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems, January 2020 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Hierarchical Event-triggered Learning for Cyclically Excited Systems with Application to Wireless Sensor Networks
Hierarchical Event-triggered Learning for Cyclically Excited Systems with Application to Wireless Sensor Networks

Beuchert, J., Solowjow, F., Raisch, J., Trimpe, S., Seel, T.

IEEE Control Systems Letters, 4(1):103-108, January 2020 (article)

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arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


Control-guided Communication: Efficient Resource Arbitration and Allocation in Multi-hop Wireless Control Systems
Control-guided Communication: Efficient Resource Arbitration and Allocation in Multi-hop Wireless Control Systems

Baumann, D., Mager, F., Zimmerling, M., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Control Systems Letters, 4(1):127-132, January 2020 (article)

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arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]


Spatial Scheduling of Informative Meetings for Multi-Agent Persistent Coverage
Spatial Scheduling of Informative Meetings for Multi-Agent Persistent Coverage

Haksar, R. N., Trimpe, S., Schwager, M.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

ics

DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control
Safe and Fast Tracking on a Robot Manipulator: Robust MPC and Neural Network Control

Nubert, J., Koehler, J., Berenz, V., Allgower, F., Trimpe, S.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article) Accepted

Abstract
Fast feedback control and safety guarantees are essential in modern robotics. We present an approach that achieves both by combining novel robust model predictive control (MPC) with function approximation via (deep) neural networks (NNs). The result is a new approach for complex tasks with nonlinear, uncertain, and constrained dynamics as are common in robotics. Specifically, we leverage recent results in MPC research to propose a new robust setpoint tracking MPC algorithm, which achieves reliable and safe tracking of a dynamic setpoint while guaranteeing stability and constraint satisfaction. The presented robust MPC scheme constitutes a one-layer approach that unifies the often separated planning and control layers, by directly computing the control command based on a reference and possibly obstacle positions. As a separate contribution, we show how the computation time of the MPC can be drastically reduced by approximating the MPC law with a NN controller. The NN is trained and validated from offline samples of the MPC, yielding statistical guarantees, and used in lieu thereof at run time. Our experiments on a state-of-the-art robot manipulator are the first to show that both the proposed robust and approximate MPC schemes scale to real-world robotic systems.

am ics

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]

arXiv PDF DOI [BibTex]