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2017


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Interactive Perception: Leveraging Action in Perception and Perception in Action

Bohg, J., Hausman, K., Sankaran, B., Brock, O., Kragic, D., Schaal, S., Sukhatme, G.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 33, pages: 1273-1291, December 2017 (article)

Abstract
Recent approaches in robotics follow the insight that perception is facilitated by interactivity with the environment. These approaches are subsumed under the term of Interactive Perception (IP). We argue that IP provides the following benefits: (i) any type of forceful interaction with the environment creates a new type of informative sensory signal that would otherwise not be present and (ii) any prior knowledge about the nature of the interaction supports the interpretation of the signal. This is facilitated by knowledge of the regularity in the combined space of sensory information and action parameters. The goal of this survey is to postulate this as a principle and collect evidence in support by analyzing and categorizing existing work in this area. We also provide an overview of the most important applications of Interactive Perception. We close this survey by discussing the remaining open questions. Thereby, we hope to define a field and inspire future work.

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arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]

2017


arXiv DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning a model of facial shape and expression from 4D scans

Li, T., Bolkart, T., Black, M. J., Li, H., Romero, J.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, 36(6):194:1-194:17, November 2017, Two first authors contributed equally (article)

Abstract
The field of 3D face modeling has a large gap between high-end and low-end methods. At the high end, the best facial animation is indistinguishable from real humans, but this comes at the cost of extensive manual labor. At the low end, face capture from consumer depth sensors relies on 3D face models that are not expressive enough to capture the variability in natural facial shape and expression. We seek a middle ground by learning a facial model from thousands of accurately aligned 3D scans. Our FLAME model (Faces Learned with an Articulated Model and Expressions) is designed to work with existing graphics software and be easy to fit to data. FLAME uses a linear shape space trained from 3800 scans of human heads. FLAME combines this linear shape space with an articulated jaw, neck, and eyeballs, pose-dependent corrective blendshapes, and additional global expression from 4D face sequences in the D3DFACS dataset along with additional 4D sequences.We accurately register a template mesh to the scan sequences and make the D3DFACS registrations available for research purposes. In total the model is trained from over 33, 000 scans. FLAME is low-dimensional but more expressive than the FaceWarehouse model and the Basel Face Model. We compare FLAME to these models by fitting them to static 3D scans and 4D sequences using the same optimization method. FLAME is significantly more accurate and is available for research purposes (http://flame.is.tue.mpg.de).

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data/model video code chumpy code tensorflow paper supplemental Project Page [BibTex]

data/model video code chumpy code tensorflow paper supplemental Project Page [BibTex]


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Acquiring Target Stacking Skills by Goal-Parameterized Deep Reinforcement Learning

Li, W., Bohg, J., Fritz, M.

arXiv, November 2017 (article) Submitted

Abstract
Understanding physical phenomena is a key component of human intelligence and enables physical interaction with previously unseen environments. In this paper, we study how an artificial agent can autonomously acquire this intuition through interaction with the environment. We created a synthetic block stacking environment with physics simulation in which the agent can learn a policy end-to-end through trial and error. Thereby, we bypass to explicitly model physical knowledge within the policy. We are specifically interested in tasks that require the agent to reach a given goal state that may be different for every new trial. To this end, we propose a deep reinforcement learning framework that learns policies which are parametrized by a goal. We validated the model on a toy example navigating in a grid world with different target positions and in a block stacking task with different target structures of the final tower. In contrast to prior work, our policies show better generalization across different goals.

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arXiv [BibTex]


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Investigating Body Image Disturbance in Anorexia Nervosa Using Novel Biometric Figure Rating Scales: A Pilot Study

Mölbert, S. C., Thaler, A., Streuber, S., Black, M. J., Karnath, H., Zipfel, S., Mohler, B., Giel, K. E.

European Eating Disorders Review, 25(6):607-612, November 2017 (article)

Abstract
This study uses novel biometric figure rating scales (FRS) spanning body mass index (BMI) 13.8 to 32.2 kg/m2 and BMI 18 to 42 kg/m2. The aims of the study were (i) to compare FRS body weight dissatisfaction and perceptual distortion of women with anorexia nervosa (AN) to a community sample; (ii) how FRS parameters are associated with questionnaire body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms and appearance comparison habits; and (iii) whether the weight spectrum of the FRS matters. Women with AN (n = 24) and a community sample of women (n = 104) selected their current and ideal body on the FRS and completed additional questionnaires. Women with AN accurately picked the body that aligned best with their actual weight in both FRS. Controls underestimated their BMI in the FRS 14–32 and were accurate in the FRS 18–42. In both FRS, women with AN desired a body close to their actual BMI and controls desired a thinner body. Our observations suggest that body image disturbance in AN is unlikely to be characterized by a visual perceptual disturbance, but rather by an idealization of underweight in conjunction with high body dissatisfaction. The weight spectrum of FRS can influence the accuracy of BMI estimation.

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publisher DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Embodied Hands: Modeling and Capturing Hands and Bodies Together

Romero, J., Tzionas, D., Black, M. J.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH Asia), 36(6):245:1-245:17, 245:1–245:17, ACM, November 2017 (article)

Abstract
Humans move their hands and bodies together to communicate and solve tasks. Capturing and replicating such coordinated activity is critical for virtual characters that behave realistically. Surprisingly, most methods treat the 3D modeling and tracking of bodies and hands separately. Here we formulate a model of hands and bodies interacting together and fit it to full-body 4D sequences. When scanning or capturing the full body in 3D, hands are small and often partially occluded, making their shape and pose hard to recover. To cope with low-resolution, occlusion, and noise, we develop a new model called MANO (hand Model with Articulated and Non-rigid defOrmations). MANO is learned from around 1000 high-resolution 3D scans of hands of 31 subjects in a wide variety of hand poses. The model is realistic, low-dimensional, captures non-rigid shape changes with pose, is compatible with standard graphics packages, and can fit any human hand. MANO provides a compact mapping from hand poses to pose blend shape corrections and a linear manifold of pose synergies. We attach MANO to a standard parameterized 3D body shape model (SMPL), resulting in a fully articulated body and hand model (SMPL+H). We illustrate SMPL+H by fitting complex, natural, activities of subjects captured with a 4D scanner. The fitting is fully automatic and results in full body models that move naturally with detailed hand motions and a realism not seen before in full body performance capture. The models and data are freely available for research purposes at http://mano.is.tue.mpg.de.

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website youtube paper suppl video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

website youtube paper suppl video link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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An Online Scalable Approach to Unified Multirobot Cooperative Localization and Object Tracking

Ahmad, A., Lawless, G., Lima, P.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics (T-RO), 33, pages: 1184 - 1199, October 2017 (article)

Abstract
In this article we present a unified approach for multi-robot cooperative simultaneous localization and object tracking based on particle filters. Our approach is scalable with respect to the number of robots in the team. We introduce a method that reduces, from an exponential to a linear growth, the space and computation time requirements with respect to the number of robots in order to maintain a given level of accuracy in the full state estimation. Our method requires no increase in the number of particles with respect to the number of robots. However, in our method each particle represents a full state hypothesis, leading to the linear dependency on the number of robots of both space and time complexity. The derivation of the algorithm implementing our approach from a standard particle filter algorithm and its complexity analysis are presented. Through an extensive set of simulation experiments on a large number of randomized datasets, we demonstrate the correctness and efficacy of our approach. Through real robot experiments on a standardized open dataset of a team of four soccer playing robots tracking a ball, we evaluate our method's estimation accuracy with respect to the ground truth values. Through comparisons with other methods based on i) nonlinear least squares minimization and ii) joint extended Kalman filter, we further highlight our method's advantages. Finally, we also present a robustness test for our approach by evaluating it under scenarios of communication and vision failure in teammate robots.

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Published Version link (url) DOI [BibTex]

Published Version link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Event-based State Estimation: An Emulation-based Approach

Trimpe, S.

IET Control Theory & Applications, 11(11):1684-1693, July 2017 (article)

Abstract
An event-based state estimation approach for reducing communication in a networked control system is proposed. Multiple distributed sensor agents observe a dynamic process and sporadically transmit their measurements to estimator agents over a shared bus network. Local event-triggering protocols ensure that data is transmitted only when necessary to meet a desired estimation accuracy. The event-based design is shown to emulate the performance of a centralised state observer design up to guaranteed bounds, but with reduced communication. The stability results for state estimation are extended to the distributed control system that results when the local estimates are used for feedback control. Results from numerical simulations and hardware experiments illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach in reducing network communication.

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arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv Supplementary material PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Human Shape Estimation using Statistical Body Models

Loper, M. M.

University of Tübingen, May 2017 (thesis)

Abstract
Human body estimation methods transform real-world observations into predictions about human body state. These estimation methods benefit a variety of health, entertainment, clothing, and ergonomics applications. State may include pose, overall body shape, and appearance. Body state estimation is underconstrained by observations; ambiguity presents itself both in the form of missing data within observations, and also in the form of unknown correspondences between observations. We address this challenge with the use of a statistical body model: a data-driven virtual human. This helps resolve ambiguity in two ways. First, it fills in missing data, meaning that incomplete observations still result in complete shape estimates. Second, the model provides a statistically-motivated penalty for unlikely states, which enables more plausible body shape estimates. Body state inference requires more than a body model; we therefore build obser- vation models whose output is compared with real observations. In this thesis, body state is estimated from three types of observations: 3D motion capture markers, depth and color images, and high-resolution 3D scans. In each case, a forward process is proposed which simulates observations. By comparing observations to the results of the forward process, state can be adjusted to minimize the difference between simulated and observed data. We use gradient-based methods because they are critical to the precise estimation of state with a large number of parameters. The contributions of this work include three parts. First, we propose a method for the estimation of body shape, nonrigid deformation, and pose from 3D markers. Second, we present a concise approach to differentiating through the rendering process, with application to body shape estimation. And finally, we present a statistical body model trained from human body scans, with state-of-the-art fidelity, good runtime performance, and compatibility with existing animation packages.

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Official Version [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Articulated Real-Time Tracking for Robot Manipulation

(Best Paper of RA-L 2017, Finalist of Best Robotic Vision Paper Award of ICRA 2017)

Garcia Cifuentes, C., Issac, J., Wüthrich, M., Schaal, S., Bohg, J.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), 2(2):577-584, April 2017 (article)

Abstract
We propose a probabilistic filtering method which fuses joint measurements with depth images to yield a precise, real-time estimate of the end-effector pose in the camera frame. This avoids the need for frame transformations when using it in combination with visual object tracking methods. Precision is achieved by modeling and correcting biases in the joint measurements as well as inaccuracies in the robot model, such as poor extrinsic camera calibration. We make our method computationally efficient through a principled combination of Kalman filtering of the joint measurements and asynchronous depth-image updates based on the Coordinate Particle Filter. We quantitatively evaluate our approach on a dataset recorded from a real robotic platform, annotated with ground truth from a motion capture system. We show that our approach is robust and accurate even under challenging conditions such as fast motion, significant and long-term occlusions, and time-varying biases. We release the dataset along with open-source code of our approach to allow for quantitative comparison with alternative approaches.

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arXiv video code and dataset video PDF DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Anticipatory Action Selection for Human-Robot Table Tennis

Wang, Z., Boularias, A., Mülling, K., Schölkopf, B., Peters, J.

Artificial Intelligence, 247, pages: 399-414, 2017, Special Issue on AI and Robotics (article)

Abstract
Abstract Anticipation can enhance the capability of a robot in its interaction with humans, where the robot predicts the humans' intention for selecting its own action. We present a novel framework of anticipatory action selection for human-robot interaction, which is capable to handle nonlinear and stochastic human behaviors such as table tennis strokes and allows the robot to choose the optimal action based on prediction of the human partner's intention with uncertainty. The presented framework is generic and can be used in many human-robot interaction scenarios, for example, in navigation and human-robot co-manipulation. In this article, we conduct a case study on human-robot table tennis. Due to the limited amount of time for executing hitting movements, a robot usually needs to initiate its hitting movement before the opponent hits the ball, which requires the robot to be anticipatory based on visual observation of the opponent's movement. Previous work on Intention-Driven Dynamics Models (IDDM) allowed the robot to predict the intended target of the opponent. In this article, we address the problem of action selection and optimal timing for initiating a chosen action by formulating the anticipatory action selection as a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP), where the transition and observation are modeled by the \{IDDM\} framework. We present two approaches to anticipatory action selection based on the \{POMDP\} formulation, i.e., a model-free policy learning method based on Least-Squares Policy Iteration (LSPI) that employs the \{IDDM\} for belief updates, and a model-based Monte-Carlo Planning (MCP) method, which benefits from the transition and observation model by the IDDM. Experimental results using real data in a simulated environment show the importance of anticipatory action selection, and that \{POMDPs\} are suitable to formulate the anticipatory action selection problem by taking into account the uncertainties in prediction. We also show that existing algorithms for POMDPs, such as \{LSPI\} and MCP, can be applied to substantially improve the robot's performance in its interaction with humans.

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Early Stopping Without a Validation Set

Mahsereci, M., Balles, L., Lassner, C., Hennig, P.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1703.09580, 2017 (article)

Abstract
Early stopping is a widely used technique to prevent poor generalization performance when training an over-expressive model by means of gradient-based optimization. To find a good point to halt the optimizer, a common practice is to split the dataset into a training and a smaller validation set to obtain an ongoing estimate of the generalization performance. In this paper we propose a novel early stopping criterion which is based on fast-to-compute, local statistics of the computed gradients and entirely removes the need for a held-out validation set. Our experiments show that this is a viable approach in the setting of least-squares and logistic regression as well as neural networks.

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link (url) Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Data-Driven Physics for Human Soft Tissue Animation

Kim, M., Pons-Moll, G., Pujades, S., Bang, S., Kim, J., Black, M. J., Lee, S.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH), 36(4):54:1-54:12, 2017 (article)

Abstract
Data driven models of human poses and soft-tissue deformations can produce very realistic results, but they only model the visible surface of the human body and cannot create skin deformation due to interactions with the environment. Physical simulations can generalize to external forces, but their parameters are difficult to control. In this paper, we present a layered volumetric human body model learned from data. Our model is composed of a data-driven inner layer and a physics-based external layer. The inner layer is driven with a volumetric statistical body model (VSMPL). The soft tissue layer consists of a tetrahedral mesh that is driven using the finite element method (FEM). Model parameters, namely the segmentation of the body into layers and the soft tissue elasticity, are learned directly from 4D registrations of humans exhibiting soft tissue deformations. The learned two layer model is a realistic full-body avatar that generalizes to novel motions and external forces. Experiments show that the resulting avatars produce realistic results on held out sequences and react to external forces. Moreover, the model supports the retargeting of physical properties from one avatar when they share the same topology.

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video paper link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

video paper link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Inference Models for Computer Vision

Jampani, V.

MPI for Intelligent Systems and University of Tübingen, 2017 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Computer vision can be understood as the ability to perform 'inference' on image data. Breakthroughs in computer vision technology are often marked by advances in inference techniques, as even the model design is often dictated by the complexity of inference in them. This thesis proposes learning based inference schemes and demonstrates applications in computer vision. We propose techniques for inference in both generative and discriminative computer vision models. Despite their intuitive appeal, the use of generative models in vision is hampered by the difficulty of posterior inference, which is often too complex or too slow to be practical. We propose techniques for improving inference in two widely used techniques: Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling and message-passing inference. Our inference strategy is to learn separate discriminative models that assist Bayesian inference in a generative model. Experiments on a range of generative vision models show that the proposed techniques accelerate the inference process and/or converge to better solutions. A main complication in the design of discriminative models is the inclusion of prior knowledge in a principled way. For better inference in discriminative models, we propose techniques that modify the original model itself, as inference is simple evaluation of the model. We concentrate on convolutional neural network (CNN) models and propose a generalization of standard spatial convolutions, which are the basic building blocks of CNN architectures, to bilateral convolutions. First, we generalize the existing use of bilateral filters and then propose new neural network architectures with learnable bilateral filters, which we call `Bilateral Neural Networks'. We show how the bilateral filtering modules can be used for modifying existing CNN architectures for better image segmentation and propose a neural network approach for temporal information propagation in videos. Experiments demonstrate the potential of the proposed bilateral networks on a wide range of vision tasks and datasets. In summary, we propose learning based techniques for better inference in several computer vision models ranging from inverse graphics to freely parameterized neural networks. In generative vision models, our inference techniques alleviate some of the crucial hurdles in Bayesian posterior inference, paving new ways for the use of model based machine learning in vision. In discriminative CNN models, the proposed filter generalizations aid in the design of new neural network architectures that can handle sparse high-dimensional data as well as provide a way for incorporating prior knowledge into CNNs.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


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Sparse Inertial Poser: Automatic 3D Human Pose Estimation from Sparse IMUs

(Best Paper, Eurographics 2017)

Marcard, T. V., Rosenhahn, B., Black, M., Pons-Moll, G.

Computer Graphics Forum 36(2), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the European Association for Computer Graphics (Eurographics), pages: 349-360 , 2017 (article)

Abstract
We address the problem of making human motion capture in the wild more practical by using a small set of inertial sensors attached to the body. Since the problem is heavily under-constrained, previous methods either use a large number of sensors, which is intrusive, or they require additional video input. We take a different approach and constrain the problem by: (i) making use of a realistic statistical body model that includes anthropometric constraints and (ii) using a joint optimization framework to fit the model to orientation and acceleration measurements over multiple frames. The resulting tracker Sparse Inertial Poser (SIP) enables motion capture using only 6 sensors (attached to the wrists, lower legs, back and head) and works for arbitrary human motions. Experiments on the recently released TNT15 dataset show that, using the same number of sensors, SIP achieves higher accuracy than the dataset baseline without using any video data. We further demonstrate the effectiveness of SIP on newly recorded challenging motions in outdoor scenarios such as climbing or jumping over a wall

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video pdf Project Page [BibTex]

video pdf Project Page [BibTex]


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Efficient 2D and 3D Facade Segmentation using Auto-Context

Gadde, R., Jampani, V., Marlet, R., Gehler, P.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, 2017 (article)

Abstract
This paper introduces a fast and efficient segmentation technique for 2D images and 3D point clouds of building facades. Facades of buildings are highly structured and consequently most methods that have been proposed for this problem aim to make use of this strong prior information. Contrary to most prior work, we are describing a system that is almost domain independent and consists of standard segmentation methods. We train a sequence of boosted decision trees using auto-context features. This is learned using stacked generalization. We find that this technique performs better, or comparable with all previous published methods and present empirical results on all available 2D and 3D facade benchmark datasets. The proposed method is simple to implement, easy to extend, and very efficient at test-time inference.

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arXiv Project Page [BibTex]

arXiv Project Page [BibTex]


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ClothCap: Seamless 4D Clothing Capture and Retargeting

Pons-Moll, G., Pujades, S., Hu, S., Black, M.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH), 36(4):73:1-73:15, ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2017, Two first authors contributed equally (article)

Abstract
Designing and simulating realistic clothing is challenging and, while several methods have addressed the capture of clothing from 3D scans, previous methods have been limited to single garments and simple motions, lack detail, or require specialized texture patterns. Here we address the problem of capturing regular clothing on fully dressed people in motion. People typically wear multiple pieces of clothing at a time. To estimate the shape of such clothing, track it over time, and render it believably, each garment must be segmented from the others and the body. Our ClothCap approach uses a new multi-part 3D model of clothed bodies, automatically segments each piece of clothing, estimates the naked body shape and pose under the clothing, and tracks the 3D deformations of the clothing over time. We estimate the garments and their motion from 4D scans; that is, high-resolution 3D scans of the subject in motion at 60 fps. The model allows us to capture a clothed person in motion, extract their clothing, and retarget the clothing to new body shapes. ClothCap provides a step towards virtual try-on with a technology for capturing, modeling, and analyzing clothing in motion.

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video project_page paper link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

video project_page paper link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Capturing Hand-Object Interaction and Reconstruction of Manipulated Objects

Tzionas, D.

University of Bonn, 2017 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Hand motion capture with an RGB-D sensor gained recently a lot of research attention, however, even most recent approaches focus on the case of a single isolated hand. We focus instead on hands that interact with other hands or with a rigid or articulated object. Our framework successfully captures motion in such scenarios by combining a generative model with discriminatively trained salient points, collision detection and physics simulation to achieve a low tracking error with physically plausible poses. All components are unified in a single objective function that can be optimized with standard optimization techniques. We initially assume a-priori knowledge of the object's shape and skeleton. In case of unknown object shape there are existing 3d reconstruction methods that capitalize on distinctive geometric or texture features. These methods though fail for textureless and highly symmetric objects like household articles, mechanical parts or toys. We show that extracting 3d hand motion for in-hand scanning effectively facilitates the reconstruction of such objects and we fuse the rich additional information of hands into a 3d reconstruction pipeline. Finally, although shape reconstruction is enough for rigid objects, there is a lack of tools that build rigged models of articulated objects that deform realistically using RGB-D data. We propose a method that creates a fully rigged model consisting of a watertight mesh, embedded skeleton and skinning weights by employing a combination of deformable mesh tracking, motion segmentation based on spectral clustering and skeletonization based on mean curvature flow.

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Thesis link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2014


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Pole Balancing with Apollo

Holger Kaden

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, December 2014 (mastersthesis)

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[BibTex]

2014


[BibTex]


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Wenn es was zu sagen gibt

(Klaus Tschira Award 2014 in Computer Science)

Trimpe, S.

Bild der Wissenschaft, pages: 20-23, November 2014, (popular science article in German) (article)

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PDF Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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MoSh: Motion and Shape Capture from Sparse Markers

Loper, M. M., Mahmood, N., Black, M. J.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH Asia), 33(6):220:1-220:13, ACM, New York, NY, USA, November 2014 (article)

Abstract
Marker-based motion capture (mocap) is widely criticized as producing lifeless animations. We argue that important information about body surface motion is present in standard marker sets but is lost in extracting a skeleton. We demonstrate a new approach called MoSh (Motion and Shape capture), that automatically extracts this detail from mocap data. MoSh estimates body shape and pose together using sparse marker data by exploiting a parametric model of the human body. In contrast to previous work, MoSh solves for the marker locations relative to the body and estimates accurate body shape directly from the markers without the use of 3D scans; this effectively turns a mocap system into an approximate body scanner. MoSh is able to capture soft tissue motions directly from markers by allowing body shape to vary over time. We evaluate the effect of different marker sets on pose and shape accuracy and propose a new sparse marker set for capturing soft-tissue motion. We illustrate MoSh by recovering body shape, pose, and soft-tissue motion from archival mocap data and using this to produce animations with subtlety and realism. We also show soft-tissue motion retargeting to new characters and show how to magnify the 3D deformations of soft tissue to create animations with appealing exaggerations.

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pdf video data pdf from publisher link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video data pdf from publisher link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Can I recognize my body’s weight? The influence of shape and texture on the perception of self

Piryankova, I., Stefanucci, J., Romero, J., de la Rosa, S., Black, M., Mohler, B.

ACM Transactions on Applied Perception for the Symposium on Applied Perception, 11(3):13:1-13:18, September 2014 (article)

Abstract
The goal of this research was to investigate women’s sensitivity to changes in their perceived weight by altering the body mass index (BMI) of the participants’ personalized avatars displayed on a large-screen immersive display. We created the personalized avatars with a full-body 3D scanner that records both the participants’ body geometry and texture. We altered the weight of the personalized avatars to produce changes in BMI while keeping height, arm length and inseam fixed and exploited the correlation between body geometry and anthropometric measurements encapsulated in a statistical body shape model created from thousands of body scans. In a 2x2 psychophysical experiment, we investigated the relative importance of visual cues, namely shape (own shape vs. an average female body shape with equivalent height and BMI to the participant) and texture (own photo-realistic texture or checkerboard pattern texture) on the ability to accurately perceive own current body weight (by asking them ‘Is the avatar the same weight as you?’). Our results indicate that shape (where height and BMI are fixed) had little effect on the perception of body weight. Interestingly, the participants perceived their body weight veridically when they saw their own photo-realistic texture and significantly underestimated their body weight when the avatar had a checkerboard patterned texture. The range that the participants accepted as their own current weight was approximately a 0.83 to −6.05 BMI% change tolerance range around their perceived weight. Both the shape and the texture had an effect on the reported similarity of the body parts and the whole avatar to the participant’s body. This work has implications for new measures for patients with body image disorders, as well as researchers interested in creating personalized avatars for games, training applications or virtual reality.

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pdf DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Robotics and Neuroscience

Floreano, Dario, Ijspeert, Auke Jan, Schaal, S.

Current Biology, 24(18):R910-R920, sep 2014 (article)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Learning Coupling Terms for Obstacle Avoidance

Rai, A.

École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, August 2014 (mastersthesis)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Object Tracking in Depth Images Using Sigma Point Kalman Filters

Issac, J.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, July 2014 (mastersthesis)

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Breathing Life into Shape: Capturing, Modeling and Animating 3D Human Breathing

Tsoli, A., Mahmood, N., Black, M. J.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH), 33(4):52:1-52:11, ACM, New York, NY, July 2014 (article)

Abstract
Modeling how the human body deforms during breathing is important for the realistic animation of lifelike 3D avatars. We learn a model of body shape deformations due to breathing for different breathing types and provide simple animation controls to render lifelike breathing regardless of body shape. We capture and align high-resolution 3D scans of 58 human subjects. We compute deviations from each subject’s mean shape during breathing, and study the statistics of such shape changes for different genders, body shapes, and breathing types. We use the volume of the registered scans as a proxy for lung volume and learn a novel non-linear model relating volume and breathing type to 3D shape deformations and pose changes. We then augment a SCAPE body model so that body shape is determined by identity, pose, and the parameters of the breathing model. These parameters provide an intuitive interface with which animators can synthesize 3D human avatars with realistic breathing motions. We also develop a novel interface for animating breathing using a spirometer, which measures the changes in breathing volume of a “breath actor.”

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pdf video link (url) DOI Project Page Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Nonmyopic View Planning for Active Object Classification and Pose Estimation

Atanasov, N., Sankaran, B., Le Ny, J., Pappas, G., Daniilidis, K.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, May 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the central problems in computer vision is the detection of semantically important objects and the estimation of their pose. Most of the work in object detection has been based on single image processing and its performance is limited by occlusions and ambiguity in appearance and geometry. This paper proposes an active approach to object detection by controlling the point of view of a mobile depth camera. When an initial static detection phase identifies an object of interest, several hypotheses are made about its class and orientation. The sensor then plans a sequence of viewpoints, which balances the amount of energy used to move with the chance of identifying the correct hypothesis. We formulate an active M-ary hypothesis testing problem, which includes sensor mobility, and solve it using a point-based approximate POMDP algorithm. The validity of our approach is verified through simulation and real-world experiments with the PR2 robot. The results suggest a significant improvement over static object detection

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Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]

Web pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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3D Traffic Scene Understanding from Movable Platforms

Geiger, A., Lauer, M., Wojek, C., Stiller, C., Urtasun, R.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), 36(5):1012-1025, published, IEEE, Los Alamitos, CA, May 2014 (article)

Abstract
In this paper, we present a novel probabilistic generative model for multi-object traffic scene understanding from movable platforms which reasons jointly about the 3D scene layout as well as the location and orientation of objects in the scene. In particular, the scene topology, geometry and traffic activities are inferred from short video sequences. Inspired by the impressive driving capabilities of humans, our model does not rely on GPS, lidar or map knowledge. Instead, it takes advantage of a diverse set of visual cues in the form of vehicle tracklets, vanishing points, semantic scene labels, scene flow and occupancy grids. For each of these cues we propose likelihood functions that are integrated into a probabilistic generative model. We learn all model parameters from training data using contrastive divergence. Experiments conducted on videos of 113 representative intersections show that our approach successfully infers the correct layout in a variety of very challenging scenarios. To evaluate the importance of each feature cue, experiments using different feature combinations are conducted. Furthermore, we show how by employing context derived from the proposed method we are able to improve over the state-of-the-art in terms of object detection and object orientation estimation in challenging and cluttered urban environments.

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pdf link (url) [BibTex]

pdf link (url) [BibTex]


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Modeling the Human Body in 3D: Data Registration and Human Shape Representation

Tsoli, A.

Brown University, Department of Computer Science, May 2014 (phdthesis)

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


Thumb xl screen shot 2015 08 22 at 22.50.12
Data-Driven Grasp Synthesis - A Survey

Bohg, J., Morales, A., Asfour, T., Kragic, D.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 30, pages: 289 - 309, IEEE, April 2014 (article)

Abstract
We review the work on data-driven grasp synthesis and the methodologies for sampling and ranking candidate grasps. We divide the approaches into three groups based on whether they synthesize grasps for known, familiar or unknown objects. This structure allows us to identify common object representations and perceptual processes that facilitate the employed data-driven grasp synthesis technique. In the case of known objects, we concentrate on the approaches that are based on object recognition and pose estimation. In the case of familiar objects, the techniques use some form of a similarity matching to a set of previously encountered objects. Finally for the approaches dealing with unknown objects, the core part is the extraction of specific features that are indicative of good grasps. Our survey provides an overview of the different methodologies and discusses open problems in the area of robot grasping. We also draw a parallel to the classical approaches that rely on analytic formulations.

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PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF link (url) DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Adaptive Offset Correction for Intracortical Brain Computer Interfaces

Homer, M. L., Perge, J. A., Black, M. J., Harrison, M. T., Cash, S. S., Hochberg, L. R.

IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 22(2):239-248, March 2014 (article)

Abstract
Intracortical brain computer interfaces (iBCIs) decode intended movement from neural activity for the control of external devices such as a robotic arm. Standard approaches include a calibration phase to estimate decoding parameters. During iBCI operation, the statistical properties of the neural activity can depart from those observed during calibration, sometimes hindering a user’s ability to control the iBCI. To address this problem, we adaptively correct the offset terms within a Kalman filter decoder via penalized maximum likelihood estimation. The approach can handle rapid shifts in neural signal behavior (on the order of seconds) and requires no knowledge of the intended movement. The algorithm, called MOCA, was tested using simulated neural activity and evaluated retrospectively using data collected from two people with tetraplegia operating an iBCI. In 19 clinical research test cases, where a nonadaptive Kalman filter yielded relatively high decoding errors, MOCA significantly reduced these errors (10.6 ± 10.1\%; p < 0.05, pairwise t-test). MOCA did not significantly change the error in the remaining 23 cases where a nonadaptive Kalman filter already performed well. These results suggest that MOCA provides more robust decoding than the standard Kalman filter for iBCIs.

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pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning objective functions for autonomous motion generation

Kalakrishnan, M.

University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2014 (phdthesis)

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Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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A Limiting Property of the Matrix Exponential

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(4):1105-1110, 2014 (article)

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PDF DOI [BibTex]

PDF DOI [BibTex]


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Event-Based State Estimation With Variance-Based Triggering

Trimpe, S., D’Andrea, R.

IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 59(12):3266-3281, 2014 (article)

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PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]

PDF Supplementary material DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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A freely-moving monkey treadmill model

Foster, J., Nuyujukian, P., Freifeld, O., Gao, H., Walker, R., Ryu, S., Meng, T., Murmann, B., Black, M., Shenoy, K.

J. of Neural Engineering, 11(4):046020, 2014 (article)

Abstract
Objective: Motor neuroscience and brain-machine interface (BMI) design is based on examining how the brain controls voluntary movement, typically by recording neural activity and behavior from animal models. Recording technologies used with these animal models have traditionally limited the range of behaviors that can be studied, and thus the generality of science and engineering research. We aim to design a freely-moving animal model using neural and behavioral recording technologies that do not constrain movement. Approach: We have established a freely-moving rhesus monkey model employing technology that transmits neural activity from an intracortical array using a head-mounted device and records behavior through computer vision using markerless motion capture. We demonstrate the excitability and utility of this new monkey model, including the fi rst recordings from motor cortex while rhesus monkeys walk quadrupedally on a treadmill. Main results: Using this monkey model, we show that multi-unit threshold-crossing neural activity encodes the phase of walking and that the average ring rate of the threshold crossings covaries with the speed of individual steps. On a population level, we find that neural state-space trajectories of walking at diff erent speeds have similar rotational dynamics in some dimensions that evolve at the step rate of walking, yet robustly separate by speed in other state-space dimensions. Significance: Freely-moving animal models may allow neuroscientists to examine a wider range of behaviors and can provide a flexible experimental paradigm for examining the neural mechanisms that underlie movement generation across behaviors and environments. For BMIs, freely-moving animal models have the potential to aid prosthetic design by examining how neural encoding changes with posture, environment, and other real-world context changes. Understanding this new realm of behavior in more naturalistic settings is essential for overall progress of basic motor neuroscience and for the successful translation of BMIs to people with paralysis.

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pdf Supplementary DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf Supplementary DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Perspective: Intelligent Systems: Bits and Bots

Spatz, J. P., Schaal, S.

Nature, (509), 2014, clmc (article)

Abstract
What is intelligence, and can we create it? Animals can perceive, reason, react and learn, but they are just one example of an intelligent system. Intelligent systems could be robots as large as humans, helping with search-and- rescue operations in dangerous places, or smart devices as tiny as a cell, delivering drugs to a target within the body. Even computing systems can be intelligent, by perceiving the world, crawling the web and processing â??big dataâ?? to extract and learn from complex information.Understanding not only how intelligence can be reproduced, but also how to build systems that put these ideas into practice, will be a challenge. Small intelligent systems will require new materials and fabrication methods, as well as com- pact information processors and power sources. And for nano-sized systems, the rules change altogether. The laws of physics operate very differently at tiny scales: for a nanorobot, swimming through water is like struggling through treacle.Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have begun to solve these problems by developing new computational methods, experiment- ing with unique robotic systems and fabricating tiny, artificial propellers, like bacterial flagella, to propel nanocreations through their environment.

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PDF link (url) [BibTex]

PDF link (url) [BibTex]


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Data-driven autonomous manipulation

Pastor, P.

University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2014 (phdthesis)

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Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page Project Page [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]


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A Quantitative Analysis of Current Practices in Optical Flow Estimation and the Principles behind Them

Sun, D., Roth, S., Black, M. J.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 106(2):115-137, 2014 (article)

Abstract
The accuracy of optical flow estimation algorithms has been improving steadily as evidenced by results on the Middlebury optical flow benchmark. The typical formulation, however, has changed little since the work of Horn and Schunck. We attempt to uncover what has made recent advances possible through a thorough analysis of how the objective function, the optimization method, and modern implementation practices influence accuracy. We discover that "classical'' flow formulations perform surprisingly well when combined with modern optimization and implementation techniques. One key implementation detail is the median filtering of intermediate flow fields during optimization. While this improves the robustness of classical methods it actually leads to higher energy solutions, meaning that these methods are not optimizing the original objective function. To understand the principles behind this phenomenon, we derive a new objective function that formalizes the median filtering heuristic. This objective function includes a non-local smoothness term that robustly integrates flow estimates over large spatial neighborhoods. By modifying this new term to include information about flow and image boundaries we develop a method that can better preserve motion details. To take advantage of the trend towards video in wide-screen format, we further introduce an asymmetric pyramid downsampling scheme that enables the estimation of longer range horizontal motions. The methods are evaluated on Middlebury, MPI Sintel, and KITTI datasets using the same parameter settings.

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pdf full text code [BibTex]

pdf full text code [BibTex]

2008


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Learning to control in operational space

Peters, J., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 27, pages: 197-212, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
One of the most general frameworks for phrasing control problems for complex, redundant robots is operational space control. However, while this framework is of essential importance for robotics and well-understood from an analytical point of view, it can be prohibitively hard to achieve accurate control in face of modeling errors, which are inevitable in com- plex robots, e.g., humanoid robots. In this paper, we suggest a learning approach for opertional space control as a direct inverse model learning problem. A first important insight for this paper is that a physically cor- rect solution to the inverse problem with redundant degrees-of-freedom does exist when learning of the inverse map is performed in a suitable piecewise linear way. The second crucial component for our work is based on the insight that many operational space controllers can be understood in terms of a constrained optimal control problem. The cost function as- sociated with this optimal control problem allows us to formulate a learn- ing algorithm that automatically synthesizes a globally consistent desired resolution of redundancy while learning the operational space controller. From the machine learning point of view, this learning problem corre- sponds to a reinforcement learning problem that maximizes an immediate reward. We employ an expectation-maximization policy search algorithm in order to solve this problem. Evaluations on a three degrees of freedom robot arm are used to illustrate the suggested approach. The applica- tion to a physically realistic simulator of the anthropomorphic SARCOS Master arm demonstrates feasibility for complex high degree-of-freedom robots. We also show that the proposed method works in the setting of learning resolved motion rate control on real, physical Mitsubishi PA-10 medical robotics arm.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2008


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Adaptation to a sub-optimal desired trajectory

M. Mistry, E. A. G. L. T. Y. S. S. M. K.

Advances in Computational Motor Control VII, Symposium at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington DC, 2008, 2008, clmc (article)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Operational space control: A theoretical and emprical comparison

Nakanishi, J., Cory, R., Mistry, M., Peters, J., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 27(6):737-757, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
Dexterous manipulation with a highly redundant movement system is one of the hallmarks of hu- man motor skills. From numerous behavioral studies, there is strong evidence that humans employ compliant task space control, i.e., they focus control only on task variables while keeping redundant degrees-of-freedom as compliant as possible. This strategy is robust towards unknown disturbances and simultaneously safe for the operator and the environment. The theory of operational space con- trol in robotics aims to achieve similar performance properties. However, despite various compelling theoretical lines of research, advanced operational space control is hardly found in actual robotics imple- mentations, in particular new kinds of robots like humanoids and service robots, which would strongly profit from compliant dexterous manipulation. To analyze the pros and cons of different approaches to operational space control, this paper focuses on a theoretical and empirical evaluation of different methods that have been suggested in the literature, but also some new variants of operational space controllers. We address formulations at the velocity, acceleration and force levels. First, we formulate all controllers in a common notational framework, including quaternion-based orientation control, and discuss some of their theoretical properties. Second, we present experimental comparisons of these approaches on a seven-degree-of-freedom anthropomorphic robot arm with several benchmark tasks. As an aside, we also introduce a novel parameter estimation algorithm for rigid body dynamics, which ensures physical consistency, as this issue was crucial for our successful robot implementations. Our extensive empirical results demonstrate that one of the simplified acceleration-based approaches can be advantageous in terms of task performance, ease of parameter tuning, and general robustness and compliance in face of inevitable modeling errors.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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A library for locally weighted projection regression

Klanke, S., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 9, pages: 623-626, 2008, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this paper we introduce an improved implementation of locally weighted projection regression (LWPR), a supervised learning algorithm that is capable of handling high-dimensional input data. As the key features, our code supports multi-threading, is available for multiple platforms, and provides wrappers for several programming languages.

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link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Optimization strategies in human reinforcement learning

Hoffmann, H., Theodorou, E., Schaal, S.

Advances in Computational Motor Control VII, Symposium at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting, Washington DC, 2008, 2008, clmc (article)

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]

1992


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Ins CAD integrierte Kostenkalkulation (CAD-Integrated Cost Calculation)

Ehrlenspiel, K., Schaal, S.

Konstruktion 44, 12, pages: 407-414, 1992, clmc (article)

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[BibTex]

1992


[BibTex]