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2018


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Instrumentation, Data, and Algorithms for Visually Understanding Haptic Surface Properties

Burka, A. L.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, August 2018, Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering (phdthesis)

Abstract
Autonomous robots need to efficiently walk over varied surfaces and grasp diverse objects. We hypothesize that the association between how such surfaces look and how they physically feel during contact can be learned from a database of matched haptic and visual data recorded from various end-effectors' interactions with hundreds of real-world surfaces. Testing this hypothesis required the creation of a new multimodal sensing apparatus, the collection of a large multimodal dataset, and development of a machine-learning pipeline. This thesis begins by describing the design and construction of the Portable Robotic Optical/Tactile ObservatioN PACKage (PROTONPACK, or Proton for short), an untethered handheld sensing device that emulates the capabilities of the human senses of vision and touch. Its sensory modalities include RGBD vision, egomotion, contact force, and contact vibration. Three interchangeable end-effectors (a steel tooling ball, an OptoForce three-axis force sensor, and a SynTouch BioTac artificial fingertip) allow for different material properties at the contact point and provide additional tactile data. We then detail the calibration process for the motion and force sensing systems, as well as several proof-of-concept surface discrimination experiments that demonstrate the reliability of the device and the utility of the data it collects. This thesis then presents a large-scale dataset of multimodal surface interaction recordings, including 357 unique surfaces such as furniture, fabrics, outdoor fixtures, and items from several private and public material sample collections. Each surface was touched with one, two, or three end-effectors, comprising approximately one minute per end-effector of tapping and dragging at various forces and speeds. We hope that the larger community of robotics researchers will find broad applications for the published dataset. Lastly, we demonstrate an algorithm that learns to estimate haptic surface properties given visual input. Surfaces were rated on hardness, roughness, stickiness, and temperature by the human experimenter and by a pool of purely visual observers. Then we trained an algorithm to perform the same task as well as infer quantitative properties calculated from the haptic data. Overall, the task of predicting haptic properties from vision alone proved difficult for both humans and computers, but a hybrid algorithm using a deep neural network and a support vector machine achieved a correlation between expected and actual regression output between approximately ρ = 0.3 and ρ = 0.5 on previously unseen surfaces.

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Project Page [BibTex]

2018


Project Page [BibTex]


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Robust Visual Augmented Reality in Robot-Assisted Surgery

Forte, M. P.

Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, July 2018, Department of Electronic, Information, and Biomedical Engineering (mastersthesis)

Abstract
The broader research objective of this line of research is to test the hypothesis that real-time stereo video analysis and augmented reality can increase safety and task efficiency in robot-assisted surgery. This master’s thesis aims to solve the first step needed to achieve this goal: the creation of a robust system that delivers the envisioned feedback to a surgeon while he or she controls a surgical robot that is identical to those used on human patients. Several approaches for applying augmented reality to da Vinci Surgical Systems have been proposed, but none of them entirely rely on a clinical robot; specifically, they require additional sensors, depend on access to the da Vinci API, are designed for a very specific task, or were tested on systems that are starkly different from those in clinical use. There has also been prior work that presents the real-world camera view and the computer graphics on separate screens, or not in real time. In other scenarios, the digital information is overlaid manually by the surgeons themselves or by computer scientists, rather than being generated automatically in response to the surgeon’s actions. We attempted to overcome the aforementioned constraints by acquiring input signals from the da Vinci stereo endoscope and providing augmented reality to the console in real time (less than 150 ms delay, including the 62 ms of inherent latency of the da Vinci). The potential benefits of the resulting system are broad because it was built to be general, rather than customized for any specific task. The entire platform is compatible with any generation of the da Vinci System and does not require a dVRK (da Vinci Research Kit) or access to the API. Thus, it can be applied to existing da Vinci Systems in operating rooms around the world.

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Project Page [BibTex]

Project Page [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Approaches to Stochastic Optimization

Mahsereci, M.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, 2018 (phdthesis)

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link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]


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Tactile perception by electrovibration

Vardar, Y.

Koc University, 2018 (phdthesis)

Abstract
One approach to generating realistic haptic feedback on touch screens is electrovibration. In this technique, the friction force is altered via electrostatic forces, which are generated by applying an alternating voltage signal to the conductive layer of a capacitive touchscreen. Although the technology for rendering haptic effects on touch surfaces using electrovibration is already in place, our knowledge of the perception mechanisms behind these effects is limited. This thesis aims to explore the mechanisms underlying haptic perception of electrovibration in two parts. In the first part, the effect of input signal properties on electrovibration perception is investigated. Our findings indicate that the perception of electrovibration stimuli depends on frequency-dependent electrical properties of human skin and human tactile sensitivity. When a voltage signal is applied to a touchscreen, it is filtered electrically by human finger and it generates electrostatic forces in the skin and mechanoreceptors. Depending on the spectral energy content of this electrostatic force signal, different psychophysical channels may be activated. The channel which mediates the detection is determined by the frequency component which has a higher energy than the sensory threshold at that frequency. In the second part, effect of masking on the electrovibration perception is investigated. We show that the detection thresholds are elevated as linear functions of masking levels for simultaneous and pedestal masking. The masking effectiveness is larger for pedestal masking compared to simultaneous masking. Moreover, our results suggest that sharpness perception depends on the local contrast between background and foreground stimuli, which varies as a function of masking amplitude and activation levels of frequency-dependent psychophysical channels.

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Tactile perception by electrovibration [BibTex]


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Probabilistic Ordinary Differential Equation Solvers — Theory and Applications

Schober, M.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, 2018 (phdthesis)

ei pn

[BibTex]

[BibTex]

2017


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Robotic Motion Learning Framework to Promote Social Engagement

Burns, R.

The George Washington University, August 2017 (mastersthesis)

Abstract
This paper discusses a novel framework designed to increase human-robot interaction through robotic imitation of the user's gestures. The set up consists of a humanoid robotic agent that socializes with and play games with the user. For the experimental group, the robot also imitates one of the user's novel gestures during a play session. We hypothesize that the robot's use of imitation will increase the user's openness towards engaging with the robot. Preliminary results from a pilot study of 12 subjects are promising in that post-imitation, experimental subjects displayed a more positive emotional state, had higher instances of mood contagion towards the robot, and interpreted the robot to have a higher level of autonomy than their control group counterparts. These results point to an increased user interest in engagement fueled by personalized imitation during interaction.

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link (url) [BibTex]

2017


link (url) [BibTex]

2013


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Camera-specific Image Denoising

Schober, M.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, October 2013 (diplomathesis)

ei pn

PDF [BibTex]

2013


PDF [BibTex]

2012


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Estimation of MIMO Closed-Loop Poles using Transfer Function Data

Vardar, Y.

Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, 2012 (mastersthesis)

Abstract
For the development of high-tech systems such as lithographic positioning systems, throughput and accuracy are the main requirements. Nowadays, the trend to reach demanded accuracy and throughput levels is designing lightweight and consequently more flexible systems. To control these systems with a more effective and less conservative way, control design should go beyond the traditional rigid control and cope with the flexibilities that limit achievable bandwidth and performance. Therefore, conventional loop shaping methods are not sufficient to reach the performance criterions. Since obtaining an accurate parametric model is very complex and time-consuming for these high-tech systems, using well-developed model-based controller synthesis methods is also not a superior option. To achieve desired performance criterions, one solution can be implemented is reducing the gap between model-based and data-based control synthesis methods. In previous research, a method was developed to define the dynamic behavior of the system without a need for a parametric model. By this method transfer function data (TFD), which provides the information on the whole s-plane can be obtained from frequency response data (FRD) of the system. This innovation was a very important step to use data-based techniques for model-based controller synthesis methods. In this thesis firstly the standard technique to obtain TFD defined in [2] is extended. This standard technique to obtain TFD is not compatible with systems with pure integrators. To extend the methodology also for those systems, two techniques, which are altering the contour and filtering the system, are proposed. Then, the accuracy of TFD is investigated in detail. It is shown that the accuracy of TFD depends on the quality of FRD obtained and the computation techniques used to calculate TFD. Then, a technique which enables to determine the closed-loop poles of a MIMO system using TFD is discussed. The validity of the technique is proven with the help of complex function theory and calculus. Also, the factors that prevent determination of the closed-loop poles are discussed. In addition, it is observed that the accuracy of the closed-loop determination method depends on the quality of obtained TFD and the computation techniques. The proposed theory to obtain TFD and determination of closed-loop poles is validated with experiments conducted to a prototype lightweight system. Also, using experimental frequency response data of NXT-A7 test rig, the success of the proposed methodology is validated also for complex systems. Through these experimental results, it can be concluded that this new technique could be very advantageous in terms of ease of use and accuracy to determine the closed-loop poles of a MIMO lightly damped system.

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[BibTex]

2012


[BibTex]

2010


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Approximate Inference in Graphical Models

Hennig, P.

University of Cambridge, November 2010 (phdthesis)

ei pn

Web [BibTex]

2010


Web [BibTex]