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2019


Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks
Learning Variable Impedance Control for Contact Sensitive Tasks

Bogdanovic, M., Khadiv, M., Righetti, L.

arXiv preprint, arXiv:1907.07500, July 2019 (article)

Abstract
Reinforcement learning algorithms have shown great success in solving different problems ranging from playing video games to robotics. However, they struggle to solve delicate robotic problems, especially those involving contact interactions. Though in principle a policy outputting joint torques should be able to learn these tasks, in practice we see that they have difficulty to robustly solve the problem without any structure in the action space. In this paper, we investigate how the choice of action space can give robust performance in presence of contact uncertainties. We propose to learn a policy that outputs impedance and desired position in joint space as a function of system states without imposing any other structure to the problem. We compare the performance of this approach to torque and position control policies under different contact uncertainties. Extensive simulation results on two different systems, a hopper (floating-base) with intermittent contacts and a manipulator (fixed-base) wiping a table, show that our proposed approach outperforms policies outputting torque or position in terms of both learning rate and robustness to environment uncertainty.

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[BibTex]


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On the positivity and magnitudes of Bayesian quadrature weights

Karvonen, T., Kanagawa, M., Särkä, S.

Statistics and Computing, 29, pages: 1317-1333, 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


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Dense connectomic reconstruction in layer 4 of the somatosensory cortex

Motta, A., Berning, M., Boergens, K. M., Staffler, B., Beining, M., Loomba, S., Hennig, P., Wissler, H., Helmstaedter, M.

Science, 366(6469):eaay3134, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2019 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Probabilistic Linear Solvers: A Unifying View
Probabilistic Linear Solvers: A Unifying View

Bartels, S., Cockayne, J., Ipsen, I., Hennig, P.

Statistics and Computing, 29(6):1249-1263, 2019 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2018


Probabilistic Solutions To Ordinary Differential Equations As Non-Linear Bayesian Filtering: A New Perspective
Probabilistic Solutions To Ordinary Differential Equations As Non-Linear Bayesian Filtering: A New Perspective

Tronarp, F., Kersting, H., Särkkä, S., Hennig, P.

ArXiv preprint 2018, arXiv:1810.03440 [stat.ME], October 2018 (article)

Abstract
We formulate probabilistic numerical approximations to solutions of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) as problems in Gaussian process (GP) regression with non-linear measurement functions. This is achieved by defining the measurement sequence to consists of the observations of the difference between the derivative of the GP and the vector field evaluated at the GP---which are all identically zero at the solution of the ODE. When the GP has a state-space representation, the problem can be reduced to a Bayesian state estimation problem and all widely-used approximations to the Bayesian filtering and smoothing problems become applicable. Furthermore, all previous GP-based ODE solvers, which were formulated in terms of generating synthetic measurements of the vector field, come out as specific approximations. We derive novel solvers, both Gaussian and non-Gaussian, from the Bayesian state estimation problem posed in this paper and compare them with other probabilistic solvers in illustrative experiments.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2018



Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes
Robust Physics-based Motion Retargeting with Realistic Body Shapes

Borno, M. A., Righetti, L., Black, M. J., Delp, S. L., Fiume, E., Romero, J.

Computer Graphics Forum, 37, pages: 6:1-12, July 2018 (article)

Abstract
Motion capture is often retargeted to new, and sometimes drastically different, characters. When the characters take on realistic human shapes, however, we become more sensitive to the motion looking right. This means adapting it to be consistent with the physical constraints imposed by different body shapes. We show how to take realistic 3D human shapes, approximate them using a simplified representation, and animate them so that they move realistically using physically-based retargeting. We develop a novel spacetime optimization approach that learns and robustly adapts physical controllers to new bodies and constraints. The approach automatically adapts the motion of the mocap subject to the body shape of a target subject. This motion respects the physical properties of the new body and every body shape results in a different and appropriate movement. This makes it easy to create a varied set of motions from a single mocap sequence by simply varying the characters. In an interactive environment, successful retargeting requires adapting the motion to unexpected external forces. We achieve robustness to such forces using a novel LQR-tree formulation. We show that the simulated motions look appropriate to each character’s anatomy and their actions are robust to perturbations.

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pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Convergence Rates of Gaussian ODE Filters

Kersting, H., Sullivan, T. J., Hennig, P.

arXiv preprint 2018, arXiv:1807.09737 [math.NA], July 2018 (article)

Abstract
A recently-introduced class of probabilistic (uncertainty-aware) solvers for ordinary differential equations (ODEs) applies Gaussian (Kalman) filtering to initial value problems. These methods model the true solution $x$ and its first $q$ derivatives a priori as a Gauss--Markov process $\boldsymbol{X}$, which is then iteratively conditioned on information about $\dot{x}$. We prove worst-case local convergence rates of order $h^{q+1}$ for a wide range of versions of this Gaussian ODE filter, as well as global convergence rates of order $h^q$ in the case of $q=1$ and an integrated Brownian motion prior, and analyse how inaccurate information on $\dot{x}$ coming from approximate evaluations of $f$ affects these rates. Moreover, we present explicit formulas for the steady states and show that the posterior confidence intervals are well calibrated in all considered cases that exhibit global convergence---in the sense that they globally contract at the same rate as the truncation error.

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Gaussian Processes and Kernel Methods: A Review on Connections and Equivalences

Kanagawa, M., Hennig, P., Sejdinovic, D., Sriperumbudur, B. K.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1805.08845v1 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
This paper is an attempt to bridge the conceptual gaps between researchers working on the two widely used approaches based on positive definite kernels: Bayesian learning or inference using Gaussian processes on the one side, and frequentist kernel methods based on reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces on the other. It is widely known in machine learning that these two formalisms are closely related; for instance, the estimator of kernel ridge regression is identical to the posterior mean of Gaussian process regression. However, they have been studied and developed almost independently by two essentially separate communities, and this makes it difficult to seamlessly transfer results between them. Our aim is to overcome this potential difficulty. To this end, we review several old and new results and concepts from either side, and juxtapose algorithmic quantities from each framework to highlight close similarities. We also provide discussions on subtle philosophical and theoretical differences between the two approaches.

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arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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Counterfactual Mean Embedding: A Kernel Method for Nonparametric Causal Inference

Muandet, K., Kanagawa, M., Saengkyongam, S., Marukata, S.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1805.08845v1 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a novel Hilbert space representation of a counterfactual distribution---called counterfactual mean embedding (CME)---with applications in nonparametric causal inference. Counterfactual prediction has become an ubiquitous tool in machine learning applications, such as online advertisement, recommendation systems, and medical diagnosis, whose performance relies on certain interventions. To infer the outcomes of such interventions, we propose to embed the associated counterfactual distribution into a reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS) endowed with a positive definite kernel. Under appropriate assumptions, the CME allows us to perform causal inference over the entire landscape of the counterfactual distribution. The CME can be estimated consistently from observational data without requiring any parametric assumption about the underlying distributions. We also derive a rate of convergence which depends on the smoothness of the conditional mean and the Radon-Nikodym derivative of the underlying marginal distributions. Our framework can deal with not only real-valued outcome, but potentially also more complex and structured outcomes such as images, sequences, and graphs. Lastly, our experimental results on off-policy evaluation tasks demonstrate the advantages of the proposed estimator.

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arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


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Model-based Kernel Sum Rule: Kernel Bayesian Inference with Probabilistic Models

Nishiyama, Y., Kanagawa, M., Gretton, A., Fukumizu, K.

Arxiv e-prints, arXiv:1409.5178v2 [stat.ML], 2018 (article)

Abstract
Kernel Bayesian inference is a powerful nonparametric approach to performing Bayesian inference in reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces or feature spaces. In this approach, kernel means are estimated instead of probability distributions, and these estimates can be used for subsequent probabilistic operations (as for inference in graphical models) or in computing the expectations of smooth functions, for instance. Various algorithms for kernel Bayesian inference have been obtained by combining basic rules such as the kernel sum rule (KSR), kernel chain rule, kernel product rule and kernel Bayes' rule. However, the current framework only deals with fully nonparametric inference (i.e., all conditional relations are learned nonparametrically), and it does not allow for flexible combinations of nonparametric and parametric inference, which are practically important. Our contribution is in providing a novel technique to realize such combinations. We introduce a new KSR referred to as the model-based KSR (Mb-KSR), which employs the sum rule in feature spaces under a parametric setting. Incorporating the Mb-KSR into existing kernel Bayesian framework provides a richer framework for hybrid (nonparametric and parametric) kernel Bayesian inference. As a practical application, we propose a novel filtering algorithm for state space models based on the Mb-KSR, which combines the nonparametric learning of an observation process using kernel mean embedding and the additive Gaussian noise model for a state transition process. While we focus on additive Gaussian noise models in this study, the idea can be extended to other noise models, such as the Cauchy and alpha-stable noise models.

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arXiv [BibTex]

arXiv [BibTex]


A probabilistic model for the numerical solution of initial value problems
A probabilistic model for the numerical solution of initial value problems

Schober, M., Särkkä, S., Philipp Hennig,

Statistics and Computing, Springer US, 2018 (article)

Abstract
We study connections between ordinary differential equation (ODE) solvers and probabilistic regression methods in statistics. We provide a new view of probabilistic ODE solvers as active inference agents operating on stochastic differential equation models that estimate the unknown initial value problem (IVP) solution from approximate observations of the solution derivative, as provided by the ODE dynamics. Adding to this picture, we show that several multistep methods of Nordsieck form can be recast as Kalman filtering on q-times integrated Wiener processes. Doing so provides a family of IVP solvers that return a Gaussian posterior measure, rather than a point estimate. We show that some such methods have low computational overhead, nontrivial convergence order, and that the posterior has a calibrated concentration rate. Additionally, we suggest a step size adaptation algorithm which completes the proposed method to a practically useful implementation, which we experimentally evaluate using a representative set of standard codes in the DETEST benchmark set.

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PDF Code DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Approaches to Stochastic Optimization

Mahsereci, M.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, 2018 (phdthesis)

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Ordinary Differential Equation Solvers — Theory and Applications

Schober, M.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, 2018 (phdthesis)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning a Structured Neural Network Policy for a Hopping Task.

Viereck, J., Kozolinsky, J., Herzog, A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 3(4):4092-4099, October 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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The Impact of Robotics and Automation on Working Conditions and Employment [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Righetti, L., Smart, W., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 25(2):126-128, June 2018 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems [Ethical, Legal, and Societal Issues]

Righetti, L., Pham, Q., Madhavan, R., Chatila, R.

IEEE Robotics \& Automation Magazine, 25(1):123-126, March 2018 (article)

Abstract
The topic of lethal autonomous weapon systems has recently caught public attention due to extensive news coverage and apocalyptic declarations from famous scientists and technologists. Weapon systems with increasing autonomy are being developed due to fast improvements in machine learning, robotics, and automation in general. These developments raise important and complex security, legal, ethical, societal, and technological issues that are being extensively discussed by scholars, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), militaries, governments, and the international community. Unfortunately, the robotics community has stayed out of the debate, for the most part, despite being the main provider of autonomous technologies. In this column, we review the main issues raised by the increase of autonomy in weapon systems and the state of the international discussion. We argue that the robotics community has a fundamental role to play in these discussions, for its own sake, to provide the often-missing technical expertise necessary to frame the debate and promote technological development in line with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) objective of advancing technology to benefit humanity.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2014


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Local Gaussian Regression

Meier, F., Hennig, P., Schaal, S.

arXiv preprint, March 2014, clmc (misc)

Abstract
Abstract: Locally weighted regression was created as a nonparametric learning method that is computationally efficient, can learn from very large amounts of data and add data incrementally. An interesting feature of locally weighted regression is that it can work with ...

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Web link (url) [BibTex]

2014


Web link (url) [BibTex]


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An autonomous manipulation system based on force control and optimization

Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Binney, J., Kelly, J., Voorhies, R. C., Sukhatme, G. S., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper we present an architecture for autonomous manipulation. Our approach is based on the belief that contact interactions during manipulation should be exploited to improve dexterity and that optimizing motion plans is useful to create more robust and repeatable manipulation behaviors. We therefore propose an architecture where state of the art force/torque control and optimization-based motion planning are the core components of the system. We give a detailed description of the modules that constitute the complete system and discuss the challenges inherent to creating such a system. We present experimental results for several grasping and manipulation tasks to demonstrate the performance and robustness of our approach.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning of grasp selection based on shape-templates

Herzog, A., Pastor, P., Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Bohg, J., Asfour, T., Schaal, S.

Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)

Abstract
The ability to grasp unknown objects still remains an unsolved problem in the robotics community. One of the challenges is to choose an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e., the 6D pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. In this paper, we introduce an algorithm that is based on the assumption that similarly shaped objects can be grasped in a similar way. It is able to synthesize good grasp poses for unknown objects by finding the best matching object shape templates associated with previously demonstrated grasps. The grasp selection algorithm is able to improve over time by using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates to new situations. We tested our approach on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM robot, which have very different hand kinematics. Furthermore, we compared our algorithm with other grasp planners and demonstrated its superior performance. The results presented in this paper show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of unknown objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does improve its performance over time.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2006


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Dynamic Hebbian learning in adaptive frequency oscillators

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Ijspeert, A.

Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 216(2):269-281, 2006 (article)

Abstract
Nonlinear oscillators are widely used in biology, physics and engineering for modeling and control. They are interesting because of their synchronization properties when coupled to other dynamical systems. In this paper, we propose a learning rule for oscillators which adapts their frequency to the frequency of any periodic or pseudo-periodic input signal. Learning is done in a dynamic way: it is part of the dynamical system and not an offline process. An interesting property of our model is that it is easily generalizable to a large class of oscillators, from phase oscillators to relaxation oscillators and strange attractors with a generic learning rule. One major feature of our learning rule is that the oscillators constructed can adapt their frequency without any signal processing or the need to specify a time window or similar free parameters. All the processing is embedded in the dynamics of the adaptive oscillator. The convergence of the learning is proved for the Hopf oscillator, then numerical experiments are carried out to explore the learning capabilities of the system. Finally, we generalize the learning rule to non-harmonic oscillators like relaxation oscillators and strange attractors.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2006


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Engineering Entrainment and Adaptation in Limit Cycle Systems – From biological inspiration to applications in robotics

Buchli, J., Righetti, L., Ijspeert, A.

Biological Cybernetics, 95(6):645-664, December 2006 (article)

Abstract
Periodic behavior is key to life and is observed in multiple instances and at multiple time scales in our metabolism, our natural environment, and our engineered environment. A natural way of modeling or generating periodic behavior is done by using oscillators, i.e., dynamical systems that exhibit limit cycle behavior. While there is extensive literature on methods to analyze such dynamical systems, much less work has been done on methods to synthesize an oscillator to exhibit some specific desired characteristics. The goal of this article is twofold: (1) to provide a framework for characterizing and designing oscillators and (2) to review how classes of well-known oscillators can be understood and related to this framework. The basis of the framework is to characterize oscillators in terms of their fundamental temporal and spatial behavior and in terms of properties that these two behaviors can be designed to exhibit. This focus on fundamental properties is important because it allows us to systematically compare a large variety of oscillators that might at first sight appear very different from each other. We identify several specifications that are useful for design, such as frequency-locking behavior, phase-locking behavior, and specific output signal shape. We also identify two classes of design methods by which these specifications can be met, namely offline methods and online methods. By relating these specifications to our framework and by presenting several examples of how oscillators have been designed in the literature, this article provides a useful methodology and toolbox for designing oscillators for a wide range of purposes. In particular, the focus on synthesis of limit cycle dynamical systems should be useful both for engineering and for computational modeling of physical or biological phenomena.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]