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2015


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Scalable Robust Principal Component Analysis using Grassmann Averages

Hauberg, S., Feragen, A., Enficiaud, R., Black, M.

IEEE Trans. Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (PAMI), December 2015 (article)

Abstract
In large datasets, manual data verification is impossible, and we must expect the number of outliers to increase with data size. While principal component analysis (PCA) can reduce data size, and scalable solutions exist, it is well-known that outliers can arbitrarily corrupt the results. Unfortunately, state-of-the-art approaches for robust PCA are not scalable. We note that in a zero-mean dataset, each observation spans a one-dimensional subspace, giving a point on the Grassmann manifold. We show that the average subspace corresponds to the leading principal component for Gaussian data. We provide a simple algorithm for computing this Grassmann Average (GA), and show that the subspace estimate is less sensitive to outliers than PCA for general distributions. Because averages can be efficiently computed, we immediately gain scalability. We exploit robust averaging to formulate the Robust Grassmann Average (RGA) as a form of robust PCA. The resulting Trimmed Grassmann Average (TGA) is appropriate for computer vision because it is robust to pixel outliers. The algorithm has linear computational complexity and minimal memory requirements. We demonstrate TGA for background modeling, video restoration, and shadow removal. We show scalability by performing robust PCA on the entire Star Wars IV movie; a task beyond any current method. Source code is available online.

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preprint pdf from publisher supplemental Project Page [BibTex]

2015


preprint pdf from publisher supplemental Project Page [BibTex]


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SMPL: A Skinned Multi-Person Linear Model

Loper, M., Mahmood, N., Romero, J., Pons-Moll, G., Black, M. J.

ACM Trans. Graphics (Proc. SIGGRAPH Asia), 34(6):248:1-248:16, ACM, New York, NY, October 2015 (article)

Abstract
We present a learned model of human body shape and pose-dependent shape variation that is more accurate than previous models and is compatible with existing graphics pipelines. Our Skinned Multi-Person Linear model (SMPL) is a skinned vertex-based model that accurately represents a wide variety of body shapes in natural human poses. The parameters of the model are learned from data including the rest pose template, blend weights, pose-dependent blend shapes, identity-dependent blend shapes, and a regressor from vertices to joint locations. Unlike previous models, the pose-dependent blend shapes are a linear function of the elements of the pose rotation matrices. This simple formulation enables training the entire model from a relatively large number of aligned 3D meshes of different people in different poses. We quantitatively evaluate variants of SMPL using linear or dual-quaternion blend skinning and show that both are more accurate than a Blend-SCAPE model trained on the same data. We also extend SMPL to realistically model dynamic soft-tissue deformations. Because it is based on blend skinning, SMPL is compatible with existing rendering engines and we make it available for research purposes.

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pdf video code/model errata DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf video code/model errata DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Dyna: A Model of Dynamic Human Shape in Motion

Pons-Moll, G., Romero, J., Mahmood, N., Black, M. J.

ACM Transactions on Graphics, (Proc. SIGGRAPH), 34(4):120:1-120:14, ACM, August 2015 (article)

Abstract
To look human, digital full-body avatars need to have soft tissue deformations like those of real people. We learn a model of soft-tissue deformations from examples using a high-resolution 4D capture system and a method that accurately registers a template mesh to sequences of 3D scans. Using over 40,000 scans of ten subjects, we learn how soft tissue motion causes mesh triangles to deform relative to a base 3D body model. Our Dyna model uses a low-dimensional linear subspace to approximate soft-tissue deformation and relates the subspace coefficients to the changing pose of the body. Dyna uses a second-order auto-regressive model that predicts soft-tissue deformations based on previous deformations, the velocity and acceleration of the body, and the angular velocities and accelerations of the limbs. Dyna also models how deformations vary with a person’s body mass index (BMI), producing different deformations for people with different shapes. Dyna realistically represents the dynamics of soft tissue for previously unseen subjects and motions. We provide tools for animators to modify the deformations and apply them to new stylized characters.

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pdf preprint video data DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]

pdf preprint video data DOI Project Page Project Page [BibTex]


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Linking Objects to Actions: Encoding of Target Object and Grasping Strategy in Primate Ventral Premotor Cortex

Vargas-Irwin, C. E., Franquemont, L., Black, M. J., Donoghue, J. P.

Journal of Neuroscience, 35(30):10888-10897, July 2015 (article)

Abstract
Neural activity in ventral premotor cortex (PMv) has been associated with the process of matching perceived objects with the motor commands needed to grasp them. It remains unclear how PMv networks can flexibly link percepts of objects affording multiple grasp options into a final desired hand action. Here, we use a relational encoding approach to track the functional state of PMv neuronal ensembles in macaque monkeys through the process of passive viewing, grip planning, and grasping movement execution. We used objects affording multiple possible grip strategies. The task included separate instructed delay periods for object presentation and grip instruction. This approach allowed us to distinguish responses elicited by the visual presentation of the objects from those associated with selecting a given motor plan for grasping. We show that PMv continuously incorporates information related to object shape and grip strategy as it becomes available, revealing a transition from a set of ensemble states initially most closely related to objects, to a new set of ensemble patterns reflecting unique object-grip combinations. These results suggest that PMv dynamically combines percepts, gradually navigating toward activity patterns associated with specific volitional actions, rather than directly mapping perceptual object properties onto categorical grip representations. Our results support the idea that PMv is part of a network that dynamically computes motor plans from perceptual information. Significance Statement: The present work demonstrates that the activity of groups of neurons in primate ventral premotor cortex reflects information related to visually presented objects, as well as the motor strategy used to grasp them, linking individual objects to multiple possible grips. PMv could provide useful control signals for neuroprosthetic assistive devices designed to interact with objects in a flexible way.

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publisher link DOI Project Page [BibTex]

publisher link DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Multi-view and 3D Deformable Part Models

Pepik, B., Stark, M., Gehler, P., Schiele, B.

Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, 37(11):14, IEEE, March 2015 (article)

Abstract
As objects are inherently 3-dimensional, they have been modeled in 3D in the early days of computer vision. Due to the ambiguities arising from mapping 2D features to 3D models, 3D object representations have been neglected and 2D feature-based models are the predominant paradigm in object detection nowadays. While such models have achieved outstanding bounding box detection performance, they come with limited expressiveness, as they are clearly limited in their capability of reasoning about 3D shape or viewpoints. In this work, we bring the worlds of 3D and 2D object representations closer, by building an object detector which leverages the expressive power of 3D object representations while at the same time can be robustly matched to image evidence. To that end, we gradually extend the successful deformable part model [1] to include viewpoint information and part-level 3D geometry information, resulting in several different models with different level of expressiveness. We end up with a 3D object model, consisting of multiple object parts represented in 3D and a continuous appearance model. We experimentally verify that our models, while providing richer object hypotheses than the 2D object models, provide consistently better joint object localization and viewpoint estimation than the state-of-the-art multi-view and 3D object detectors on various benchmarks (KITTI [2], 3D object classes [3], Pascal3D+ [4], Pascal VOC 2007 [5], EPFL multi-view cars [6]).

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DOI Project Page [BibTex]

DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Spike train SIMilarity Space (SSIMS): A framework for single neuron and ensemble data analysis

Vargas-Irwin, C. E., Brandman, D. M., Zimmermann, J. B., Donoghue, J. P., Black, M. J.

Neural Computation, 27(1):1-31, MIT Press, January 2015 (article)

Abstract
We present a method to evaluate the relative similarity of neural spiking patterns by combining spike train distance metrics with dimensionality reduction. Spike train distance metrics provide an estimate of similarity between activity patterns at multiple temporal resolutions. Vectors of pair-wise distances are used to represent the intrinsic relationships between multiple activity patterns at the level of single units or neuronal ensembles. Dimensionality reduction is then used to project the data into concise representations suitable for clustering analysis as well as exploratory visualization. Algorithm performance and robustness are evaluated using multielectrode ensemble activity data recorded in behaving primates. We demonstrate how Spike train SIMilarity Space (SSIMS) analysis captures the relationship between goal directions for an 8-directional reaching task and successfully segregates grasp types in a 3D grasping task in the absence of kinematic information. The algorithm enables exploration of virtually any type of neural spiking (time series) data, providing similarity-based clustering of neural activity states with minimal assumptions about potential information encoding models.

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pdf: publisher site pdf: author's proof DOI Project Page [BibTex]

pdf: publisher site pdf: author's proof DOI Project Page [BibTex]


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Active Reward Learning with a Novel Acquisition Function

Daniel, C., Kroemer, O., Viering, M., Metz, J., Peters, J.

Autonomous Robots, 39(3):389-405, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Metric Regression Forests for Correspondence Estimation

Pons-Moll, G., Taylor, J., Shotton, J., Hertzmann, A., Fitzgibbon, A.

International Journal of Computer Vision, pages: 1-13, 2015 (article)

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springer PDF Project Page [BibTex]

springer PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Learning Movement Primitive Attractor Goals and Sequential Skills from Kinesthetic Demonstrations

Manschitz, S., Kober, J., Gienger, M., Peters, J.

Robotics and Autonomous Systems, 74, Part A, pages: 97-107, 2015 (article)

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Bayesian Optimization for Learning Gaits under Uncertainty

Calandra, R., Seyfarth, A., Peters, J., Deisenroth, M.

Annals of Mathematics and Artificial Intelligence, pages: 1-19, 2015 (article)

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]

2014


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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]

2014


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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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]


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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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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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]

2010


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Policy learning algorithmis for motor learning (Algorithmen zum automatischen Erlernen von Motorfähigkigkeiten)

Peters, J., Kober, J., Schaal, S.

Automatisierungstechnik, 58(12):688-694, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
Robot learning methods which allow au- tonomous robots to adapt to novel situations have been a long standing vision of robotics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive sciences. However, to date, learning techniques have yet to ful- fill this promise as only few methods manage to scale into the high-dimensional domains of manipulator robotics, or even the new upcoming trend of humanoid robotics. If possible, scaling was usually only achieved in precisely pre-structured domains. In this paper, we investigate the ingredients for a general ap- proach policy learning with the goal of an application to motor skill refinement in order to get one step closer towards human- like performance. For doing so, we study two major components for such an approach, i. e., firstly, we study policy learning algo- rithms which can be applied in the general setting of motor skill learning, and, secondly, we study a theoretically well-founded general approach to representing the required control structu- res for task representation and execution.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A Bayesian approach to nonlinear parameter identification for rigid-body dynamics

Ting, J., DSouza, A., Schaal, S.

Neural Networks, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
For complex robots such as humanoids, model-based control is highly beneficial for accurate tracking while keeping negative feedback gains low for compliance. However, in such multi degree-of-freedom lightweight systems, conventional identification of rigid body dynamics models using CAD data and actuator models is inaccurate due to unknown nonlinear robot dynamic effects. An alternative method is data-driven parameter estimation, but significant noise in measured and inferred variables affects it adversely. Moreover, standard estimation procedures may give physically inconsistent results due to unmodeled nonlinearities or insufficiently rich data. This paper addresses these problems, proposing a Bayesian system identification technique for linear or piecewise linear systems. Inspired by Factor Analysis regression, we develop a computationally efficient variational Bayesian regression algorithm that is robust to ill-conditioned data, automatically detects relevant features, and identifies input and output noise. We evaluate our approach on rigid body parameter estimation for various robotic systems, achieving an error of up to three times lower than other state-of-the-art machine learning methods.

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link (url) [BibTex]


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A first optimal control solution for a complex, nonlinear, tendon driven neuromuscular finger model

Theodorou, E. A., Todorov, E., Valero-Cuevas, F.

Proceedings of the ASME 2010 Summer Bioengineering Conference August 30-September 2, 2010, Naples, Florida, USA, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In this work we present the first constrained stochastic op- timal feedback controller applied to a fully nonlinear, tendon driven index finger model. Our model also takes into account an extensor mechanism, and muscle force-length and force-velocity properties. We show this feedback controller is robust to noise and perturbations to the dynamics, while successfully handling the nonlinearities and high dimensionality of the system. By ex- tending prior methods, we are able to approximate physiological realism by ensuring positivity of neural commands and tendon tensions at all timesthus can, for the first time, use the optimal control framework to predict biologically plausible tendon tensions for a nonlinear neuromuscular finger model. METHODS 1 Muscle Model The rigid-body triple pendulum finger model with slightly viscous joints is actuated by Hill-type muscle models. Joint torques are generated by the seven muscles of the index fin-

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PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Efficient learning and feature detection in high dimensional regression

Ting, J., D’Souza, A., Vijayakumar, S., Schaal, S.

Neural Computation, 22, pages: 831-886, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a novel algorithm for efficient learning and feature selection in high- dimensional regression problems. We arrive at this model through a modification of the standard regression model, enabling us to derive a probabilistic version of the well-known statistical regression technique of backfitting. Using the Expectation- Maximization algorithm, along with variational approximation methods to overcome intractability, we extend our algorithm to include automatic relevance detection of the input features. This Variational Bayesian Least Squares (VBLS) approach retains its simplicity as a linear model, but offers a novel statistically robust â??black- boxâ? approach to generalized linear regression with high-dimensional inputs. It can be easily extended to nonlinear regression and classification problems. In particular, we derive the framework of sparse Bayesian learning, e.g., the Relevance Vector Machine, with VBLS at its core, offering significant computational and robustness advantages for this class of methods. We evaluate our algorithm on synthetic and neurophysiological data sets, as well as on standard regression and classification benchmark data sets, comparing it with other competitive statistical approaches and demonstrating its suitability as a drop-in replacement for other generalized linear regression techniques.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Stochastic Differential Dynamic Programming

Theodorou, E., Tassa, Y., Todorov, E.

In the proceedings of American Control Conference (ACC 2010) , 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a generalization of the classic Differential Dynamic Programming algorithm. We assume the existence of state- and control-dependent process noise, and proceed to derive the second-order expansion of the cost-to-go. Despite having quartic and cubic terms in the initial expression, we show that these vanish, leaving us with the same quadratic structure as standard DDP.

am

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


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Learning control in robotics – trajectory-based opitimal control techniques

Schaal, S., Atkeson, C. G.

Robotics and Automation Magazine, 17(2):20-29, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
In a not too distant future, robots will be a natural part of daily life in human society, providing assistance in many areas ranging from clinical applications, education and care giving, to normal household environments [1]. It is hard to imagine that all possible tasks can be preprogrammed in such robots. Robots need to be able to learn, either by themselves or with the help of human supervision. Additionally, wear and tear on robots in daily use needs to be automatically compensated for, which requires a form of continuous self-calibration, another form of learning. Finally, robots need to react to stochastic and dynamic environments, i.e., they need to learn how to optimally adapt to uncertainty and unforeseen changes. Robot learning is going to be a key ingredient for the future of autonomous robots. While robot learning covers a rather large field, from learning to perceive, to plan, to make decisions, etc., we will focus this review on topics of learning control, in particular, as it is concerned with learning control in simulated or actual physical robots. In general, learning control refers to the process of acquiring a control strategy for a particular control system and a particular task by trial and error. Learning control is usually distinguished from adaptive control [2] in that the learning system can have rather general optimization objectivesâ??not just, e.g., minimal tracking errorâ??and is permitted to fail during the process of learning, while adaptive control emphasizes fast convergence without failure. Thus, learning control resembles the way that humans and animals acquire new movement strategies, while adaptive control is a special case of learning control that fulfills stringent performance constraints, e.g., as needed in life-critical systems like airplanes. Learning control has been an active topic of research for at least three decades. However, given the lack of working robots that actually use learning components, more work needs to be done before robot learning will make it beyond the laboratory environment. This article will survey some ongoing and past activities in robot learning to assess where the field stands and where it is going. We will largely focus on nonwheeled robots and less on topics of state estimation, as typically explored in wheeled robots [3]â??6], and we emphasize learning in continuous state-action spaces rather than discrete state-action spaces [7], [8]. We will illustrate the different topics of robot learning with examples from our own research with anthropomorphic and humanoid robots.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Learning, planning, and control for quadruped locomotion over challenging terrain

Kalakrishnan, M., Buchli, J., Pastor, P., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, 2010, clmc (article)

Abstract
We present a control architecture for fast quadruped locomotion over rough terrain. We approach the problem by decomposing it into many sub-systems, in which we apply state-of-the-art learning, planning, optimization, and control techniques to achieve robust, fast locomotion. Unique features of our control strategy include: (1) a system that learns optimal foothold choices from expert demonstration using terrain templates, (2) a body trajectory optimizer based on the Zero- Moment Point (ZMP) stability criterion, and (3) a floating-base inverse dynamics controller that, in conjunction with force control, allows for robust, compliant locomotion over unperceived obstacles. We evaluate the performance of our controller by testing it on the LittleDog quadruped robot, over a wide variety of rough terrains of varying difficulty levels. The terrain that the robot was tested on includes rocks, logs, steps, barriers, and gaps, with obstacle sizes up to the leg length of the robot. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting results from testing performed by an independent external test team on terrain that has never been shown to us.

am

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

2009


Valero-Cuevas, F., Hoffmann, H., Kurse, M. U., Kutch, J. J., Theodorou, E. A.

IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering – (All authors have equally contributed), (2):110?135, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Computational models of the neuromuscular system hold the potential to allow us to reach a deeper understanding of neuromuscular function and clinical rehabilitation by complementing experimentation. By serving as a means to distill and explore specific hypotheses, computational models emerge from prior experimental data and motivate future experimental work. Here we review computational tools used to understand neuromuscular function including musculoskeletal modeling, machine learning, control theory, and statistical model analysis. We conclude that these tools, when used in combination, have the potential to further our understanding of neuromuscular function by serving as a rigorous means to test scientific hypotheses in ways that complement and leverage experimental data.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

2009


link (url) [BibTex]


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On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Local dimensionality reduction for non-parametric regression

Hoffman, H., Schaal, S., Vijayakumar, S.

Neural Processing Letters, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Locally-weighted regression is a computationally-efficient technique for non-linear regression. However, for high-dimensional data, this technique becomes numerically brittle and computationally too expensive if many local models need to be maintained simultaneously. Thus, local linear dimensionality reduction combined with locally-weighted regression seems to be a promising solution. In this context, we review linear dimensionality-reduction methods, compare their performance on nonparametric locally-linear regression, and discuss their ability to extend to incremental learning. The considered methods belong to the following three groups: (1) reducing dimensionality only on the input data, (2) modeling the joint input-output data distribution, and (3) optimizing the correlation between projection directions and output data. Group 1 contains principal component regression (PCR); group 2 contains principal component analysis (PCA) in joint input and output space, factor analysis, and probabilistic PCA; and group 3 contains reduced rank regression (RRR) and partial least squares (PLS) regression. Among the tested methods, only group 3 managed to achieve robust performance even for a non-optimal number of components (factors or projection directions). In contrast, group 1 and 2 failed for fewer components since these methods rely on the correct estimate of the true intrinsic dimensionality. In group 3, PLS is the only method for which a computationally-efficient incremental implementation exists. Thus, PLS appears to be ideally suited as a building block for a locally-weighted regressor in which projection directions are incrementally added on the fly.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]


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Incorporating Muscle Activation-Contraction dynamics to an optimal control framework for finger movements

Theodorou, Evangelos A., Valero-Cuevas, Francisco J.

Abstracts of Neural Control of Movement Conference (NCM 2009), 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Recent experimental and theoretical work [1] investigated the neural control of contact transition between motion and force during tapping with the index finger as a nonlinear optimization problem. Such transitions from motion to well-directed contact force are a fundamental part of dexterous manipulation. There are 3 alternative hypotheses of how this transition could be accomplished by the nervous system as a function of changes in direction and magnitude of the torque vector controlling the finger. These hypotheses are 1) an initial change in direction with a subsequent change in magnitude of the torque vector; 2) an initial change in magnitude with a subsequent directional change of the torque vector; and 3) a simultaneous and proportionally equal change of both direction and magnitude of the torque vector. Experimental work in [2] shows that the nervous system selects the first strategy, and in [1] we suggest that this may in fact be the optimal strategy. In [4] the framework of Iterative Linear Quadratic Optimal Regulator (ILQR) was extended to incorporate motion and force control. However, our prior simulation work assumed direct and instantaneous control of joint torques, which ignores the known delays and filtering properties of skeletal muscle. In this study, we implement an ILQR controller for a more biologically plausible biomechanical model of the index finger than [4], and add activation-contraction dynamics to the system to simulate muscle function. The planar biomechanical model includes the kinematics of the 3 joints while the applied torques are driven by activation?contraction dynamics with biologically plausible time constants [3]. In agreement with our experimental work [2], the task is to, within 500 ms, move the finger from a given resting configuration to target configuration with a desired terminal velocity. ILQR does not only stabilize the finger dynamics according to the objective function, but it also generates smooth joint space trajectories with minimal tuning and without an a-priori initial control policy (which is difficult to find for highly dimensional biomechanical systems). Furthemore, the use of this optimal control framework and the addition of activation-contraction dynamics considers the full nonlinear dynamics of the index finger and produces a sequence of postures which are compatible with experimental motion data [2]. These simulations combined with prior experimental results suggest that optimal control is a strong candidate for the generation of finger movements prior to abrupt motion-to-force transitions. This work is funded in part by grants NIH R01 0505520 and NSF EFRI-0836042 to Dr. Francisco J. Valero- Cuevas 1 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Effects of neuromuscular lags on controlling contact transitions. 
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: 2008. 2 Venkadesan M, Valero-Cuevas FJ. 
Neural Control of Motion-to-Force Transitions with the Fingertip. 
J. Neurosci., Feb 2008; 28: 1366 - 1373; 3 Zajac. Muscle and tendon: properties, models, scaling, and application to biomechanics and motor control. Crit Rev Biomed Eng, 17 4. Weiwei Li., Francisco Valero Cuevas: ?Linear Quadratic Optimal Control of Contact Transition with Fingertip ? ACC 2009

am

PDF [BibTex]

PDF [BibTex]


no image
On-line learning and modulation of periodic movements with nonlinear dynamical systems

Gams, A., Ijspeert, A., Schaal, S., Lenarčič, J.

Autonomous Robots, 27(1):3-23, 2009, clmc (article)

Abstract
Abstract  The paper presents a two-layered system for (1) learning and encoding a periodic signal without any knowledge on its frequency and waveform, and (2) modulating the learned periodic trajectory in response to external events. The system is used to learn periodic tasks on a humanoid HOAP-2 robot. The first layer of the system is a dynamical system responsible for extracting the fundamental frequency of the input signal, based on adaptive frequency oscillators. The second layer is a dynamical system responsible for learning of the waveform based on a built-in learning algorithm. By combining the two dynamical systems into one system we can rapidly teach new trajectories to robots without any knowledge of the frequency of the demonstration signal. The system extracts and learns only one period of the demonstration signal. Furthermore, the trajectories are robust to perturbations and can be modulated to cope with a dynamic environment. The system is computationally inexpensive, works on-line for any periodic signal, requires no additional signal processing to determine the frequency of the input signal and can be applied in parallel to multiple dimensions. Additionally, it can adapt to changes in frequency and shape, e.g. to non-stationary signals, such as hand-generated signals and human demonstrations.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]

1996


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A Kendama learning robot based on bi-directional theory

Miyamoto, H., Schaal, S., Gandolfo, F., Koike, Y., Osu, R., Nakano, E., Wada, Y., Kawato, M.

Neural Networks, 9(8):1281-1302, 1996, clmc (article)

Abstract
A general theory of movement-pattern perception based on bi-directional theory for sensory-motor integration can be used for motion capture and learning by watching in robotics. We demonstrate our methods using the game of Kendama, executed by the SARCOS Dextrous Slave Arm, which has a very similar kinematic structure to the human arm. Three ingredients have to be integrated for the successful execution of this task. The ingredients are (1) to extract via-points from a human movement trajectory using a forward-inverse relaxation model, (2) to treat via-points as a control variable while reconstructing the desired trajectory from all the via-points, and (3) to modify the via-points for successful execution. In order to test the validity of the via-point representation, we utilized a numerical model of the SARCOS arm, and examined the behavior of the system under several conditions.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

1996


link (url) [BibTex]


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One-handed juggling: A dynamical approach to a rhythmic movement task

Schaal, S., Sternad, D., Atkeson, C. G.

Journal of Motor Behavior, 28(2):165-183, 1996, clmc (article)

Abstract
The skill of rhythmic juggling a ball on a racket is investigated from the viewpoint of nonlinear dynamics. The difference equations that model the dynamical system are analyzed by means of local and non-local stability analyses. These analyses yield that the task dynamics offer an economical juggling pattern which is stable even for open-loop actuator motion. For this pattern, two types of pre dictions are extracted: (i) Stable periodic bouncing is sufficiently characterized by a negative acceleration of the racket at the moment of impact with the ball; (ii) A nonlinear scaling relation maps different juggling trajectories onto one topologically equivalent dynamical system. The relevance of these results for the human control of action was evaluated in an experiment where subjects performed a comparable task of juggling a ball on a paddle. Task manipulations involved different juggling heights and gravity conditions of the ball. The predictions were confirmed: (i) For stable rhythmic performance the paddle's acceleration at impact is negative and fluctuations of the impact acceleration follow predictions from global stability analysis; (ii) For each subject, the realizations of juggling for the different experimental conditions are related by the scaling relation. These results allow the conclusion that for the given task, humans reliably exploit the stable solutions inherent to the dynamics of the task and do not overrule these dynamics by other control mechanisms. The dynamical scaling serves as an efficient principle to generate different movement realizations from only a few parameter changes and is discussed as a dynamical formalization of the principle of motor equivalence.

am

link (url) [BibTex]

link (url) [BibTex]