Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):11-30, January 2014 (article)
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.
Autonomous Robots, 36(1-2):51-65, January 2014 (article)
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.
In 2014 IEEE/RSJ Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 981-988, IEEE, Chicago, USA, 2014 (inproceedings)
Recently several hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers based on cascades of quadratic programs have been proposed for application on torque controlled robots. They have important theoretical benefits but have never been implemented on a torque controlled robot where model inaccuracies and real-time computation requirements can be problematic. In this contribution we present an experimental evaluation of these algorithms in the context of balance control for a humanoid robot. The presented experiments demonstrate the applicability of the approach under real robot conditions (i.e. model uncertainty, estimation errors, etc). We propose a simplification of the optimization problem that allows us to decrease computation time enough to implement it in a fast torque control loop. We implement a momentum-based balance controller which shows robust performance in face of unknown disturbances, even when the robot is standing on only one foot. In a second experiment, a tracking task is evaluated to demonstrate the performance of the controller with more complicated hierarchies. Our results show that hierarchical inverse dynamics controllers can be used for feedback control of humanoid robots and that momentum-based balance control can be efficiently implemented on a real robot.
In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 3195-3202, IEEE, November 2013 (inproceedings)
We address the problem of tracking the 6-DoF pose of an object while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot. We use a dynamic Bayesian network to perform inference and compute a posterior distribution over the current object pose. Depending on whether a robot or a human manipulates the object, we employ a process model with or without knowledge of control inputs. Observations are obtained from a range camera. As opposed to previous object tracking methods, we explicitly model self-occlusions and occlusions from the environment, e.g, the human or robotic hand. This leads to a strongly non-linear observation model and additional dependencies in the Bayesian network. We employ a Rao-Blackwellised particle filter to compute an estimate of the object pose at every time step. In a set of experiments, we demonstrate the ability of our method to accurately and robustly track the object pose in real-time while it is being manipulated by a human or a robot.
In 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)
We present an approach to learning objective functions for robotic manipulation based on inverse reinforcement learning. Our path integral inverse reinforcement learning algorithm can deal with high-dimensional continuous state-action spaces, and only requires local optimality of demonstrated trajectories. We use L 1 regularization in order to achieve feature selection, and propose an efficient algorithm to minimize the resulting convex objective function. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to two core problems in robotic manipulation. First, we learn a cost function for redundancy resolution in inverse kinematics. Second, we use our method to learn a cost function over trajectories, which is then used in optimization-based motion planning for grasping and manipulation tasks. Experimental results show that our method outperforms previous algorithms in high-dimensional settings.
In 2013 IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, IEEE, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2013 (inproceedings)
Precise kinematic forward models are important for robots to successfully perform dexterous grasping and manipulation tasks, especially when visual servoing is rendered infeasible due to occlusions. A lot of research has been conducted to estimate geometric and non-geometric parameters of kinematic chains to minimize reconstruction errors. However, kinematic chains can include non-linearities, e.g. due to cable stretch and motor-side encoders, that result in significantly different errors for different parts of the state space. Previous work either does not consider such non-linearities or proposes to estimate non-geometric parameters of carefully engineered models that are robot specific. We propose a data-driven approach that learns task error models that account for such unmodeled non-linearities. We argue that in the context of grasping and manipulation, it is sufficient to achieve high accuracy in the task relevant state space. We identify this relevant state space using previously executed joint configurations and learn error corrections for those. Therefore, our system is developed to generate subsequent executions that are similar to previous ones. The experiments show that our method successfully captures the non-linearities in the head kinematic chain (due to a counterbalancing spring) and the arm kinematic chains (due to cable stretch) of the considered experimental platform, see Fig. 1. The feasibility of the presented error learning approach has also been evaluated in independent DARPA ARM-S testing contributing to successfully complete 67 out of 72 grasping and manipulation tasks.
In 2012 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2012), pages: 309-315, IEEE, Osaka, Japan, November 2012 (inproceedings)
Movement primitives as basis of movement planning and control have become a popular topic in recent years. The key idea of movement primitives is that a rather small set of stereotypical movements should suffice to create a large set of complex manipulation skills. An interesting side effect of stereotypical movement is that it also creates stereotypical sensory events, e.g., in terms of kinesthetic variables, haptic variables, or, if processed appropriately, visual variables. Thus, a movement primitive executed towards a particular object in the environment will associate a large number of sensory variables that are typical for this manipulation skill. These association can be used to increase robustness towards perturbations, and they also allow failure detection and switching towards other behaviors. We call such movement primitives augmented with sensory associations Associative Skill Memories (ASM). This paper addresses how ASMs can be acquired by imitation learning and how they can create robust manipulation skill by determining subsequent ASMs online to achieve a particular manipulation goal. Evaluation for grasping and manipulation with a Barrett WAM/Hand illustrate our approach.
In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 2379-2384, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)
The ability to grasp unknown objects is an important skill for personal robots, which has been addressed by many present and past research projects, but still remains an open problem. A crucial aspect of grasping is choosing an appropriate grasp configuration, i.e. the 6d pose of the hand relative to the object and its finger configuration. Finding feasible grasp configurations for novel objects, however, is challenging because of the huge variety in shape and size of these objects. Moreover, possible configurations also depend on the specific kinematics of the robotic arm and hand in use. In this paper, we introduce a new grasp selection algorithm able to find object grasp poses based on previously demonstrated grasps. Assuming that objects with similar shapes can be grasped in a similar way, we associate to each demonstrated grasp a grasp template. The template is a local shape descriptor for a possible grasp pose and is constructed using 3d information from depth sensors. For each new object to grasp, the algorithm then finds the best grasp candidate in the library of templates. The grasp selection is also able to improve over time using the information of previous grasp attempts to adapt the ranking of the templates. We tested the algorithm on two different platforms, the Willow Garage PR2 and the Barrett WAM arm which have very different hands. Our results show that the algorithm is able to find good grasp configurations for a large set of objects from a relatively small set of demonstrations, and does indeed improve its performance over time.
In 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 3637-3644, IEEE, Saint Paul, USA, 2012 (inproceedings)
In this paper, we derive a probabilistic registration algorithm for object modeling and tracking. In many robotics applications, such as manipulation tasks, nonvisual information about the movement of the object is available, which we will combine with the visual information. Furthermore we do not only consider observations of the object, but we also take space into account which has been observed to not be part of the object. Furthermore we are computing a posterior distribution over the relative alignment and not a point estimate as typically done in for example Iterative Closest Point (ICP). To our knowledge no existing algorithm meets these three conditions and we thus derive a novel registration algorithm in a Bayesian framework. Experimental results suggest that the proposed methods perform favorably in comparison to PCL  implementations of feature mapping and ICP, especially if nonvisual information is available.
In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Shanghai, China, May 9-13, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)
We present a new approach to motion planning
using a stochastic trajectory optimization framework. The
approach relies on generating noisy trajectories to explore
the space around an initial (possibly infeasible) trajectory,
which are then combined to produced an updated trajectory
with lower cost. A cost function based on a combination of
obstacle and smoothness cost is optimized in each iteration. No
gradient information is required for the particular optimization
algorithm that we use and so general costs for which derivatives
may not be available (e.g. costs corresponding to constraints
and motor torques) can be included in the cost function. We
demonstrate the approach both in simulation and on a dual-arm
mobile manipulation system for unconstrained and constrained
tasks. We experimentally show that the stochastic nature of
STOMP allows it to overcome local minima that gradient-based
optimizers like CHOMP can get stuck in.
In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Shanghai, China, May 9-13, 2011, clmc (inproceedings)
Learning complex motor skills for real world tasks
is a hard problem in robotic manipulation that often requires
painstaking manual tuning and design by a human expert.
In this work, we present a Reinforcement Learning based
approach to acquiring new motor skills from demonstration.
Our approach allows the robot to learn fine manipulation skills
and significantly improve its success rate and skill level starting
from a possibly coarse demonstration. Our approach aims to
incorporate task domain knowledge, where appropriate, by
working in a space consistent with the constraints of a specific
task. In addition, we also present an approach to using sensor
feedback to learn a predictive model of the task outcome. This
allows our system to learn the proprioceptive sensor feedback
needed to monitor subsequent executions of the task online and
abort execution in the event of predicted failure. We illustrate
our approach using two example tasks executed with the PR2
dual-arm robot: a straight and accurate pool stroke and a box
flipping task using two chopsticks as tools.
In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)
Developing robots capable of fine manipulation skills is of major importance in order to build truly assistive robots. These robots need to be compliant in their actuation and control in order to operate safely in human environments. Manipulation tasks imply complex contact interactions with the external world, and involve reasoning about the forces and torques to be applied. Planning under contact conditions is usually impractical due to computational complexity, and a lack of precise dynamics models of the environment. We present an approach to acquiring manipulation skills on compliant robots through reinforcement learning. The initial position control policy for manipulation is initialized through kinesthetic demonstration. We augment this policy with a force/torque profile to be controlled in combination with the position trajectories. We use the Policy Improvement with Path Integrals (PI2) algorithm to learn these force/torque profiles by optimizing a cost function that measures task success. We demonstrate our approach on the Barrett WAM robot arm equipped with a 6-DOF force/torque sensor on two different manipulation tasks: opening a door with a lever door handle, and picking up a pen off the table. We show that the learnt force control policies allow successful, robust execution of the tasks.
In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 325-331, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)
Applying model-free reinforcement learning to manipulation remains challenging for several reasons. First, manipulation involves physical contact, which causes discontinuous cost functions. Second, in manipulation, the end-point of the movement must be chosen carefully, as it represents a grasp which must be adapted to the pose and shape of the object. Finally, there is uncertainty in the object pose, and even the most carefully planned movement may fail if the object is not at the expected position. To address these challenges we 1) present a simplified, computationally more efficient version of our model-free reinforcement learning algorithm PI2; 2) extend PI2 so that it simultaneously learns shape parameters and goal parameters of motion primitives; 3) use shape and goal learning to acquire motion primitives that are robust to object pose uncertainty. We evaluate these contributions on a manipulation platform consisting of a 7-DOF arm with a 4-DOF hand.
In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 365-371, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)
Personal robots can only become widespread if they are capable of safely operating among humans. In uncertain and highly dynamic environments such as human households, robots need to be able to instantly adapt their behavior to unforseen events. In this paper, we propose a general framework to achieve very contact-reactive motions for robotic grasping and manipulation. Associating stereotypical movements to particular tasks enables our system to use previous sensor experiences as a predictive model for subsequent task executions. We use dynamical systems, named Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs), to learn goal-directed behaviors from demonstration. We exploit their dynamic properties by coupling them with the measured and predicted sensor traces. This feedback loop allows for online adaptation of the movement plan. Our system can create a rich set of possible motions that account for external perturbations and perception uncertainty to generate truly robust behaviors. As an example, we present an application to grasping with the WAM robot arm.
In Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on, pages: 2665-2670, May 2010, clmc (inproceedings)
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 terrain of varying difficulty levels. We demonstrate the generalization ability of this controller by presenting test results from an independent external test team on terrains that have never been shown to us.
International Journal of Robotics Research, 30(2):236-258, 2010, clmc (article)
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.
In Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 167-172, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)
We address the problem of foothold selection in robotic legged locomotion over very rough terrain. The difficulty of the problem we address here is comparable to that of human rock-climbing, where foot/hand-hold selection is one of the most critical aspects. Previous work in this domain typically involves defining a reward function over footholds as a weighted linear combination of terrain features. However, a significant amount of effort needs to be spent in designing these features in order to model more complex decision functions, and hand-tuning their weights is not a trivial task. We propose the use of terrain templates, which are discretized height maps of the terrain under a foothold on different length scales, as an alternative to manually designed features. We describe an algorithm that can simultaneously learn a small set of templates and a foothold ranking function using these templates, from expert-demonstrated footholds. Using the LittleDog quadruped robot, we experimentally show that the use of terrain templates can produce complex ranking functions with higher performance than standard terrain features, and improved generalization to unseen terrain.
In IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids 2009), Paris, Dec.7-10, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)
over and over again. This regularity allows humans
and robots to reuse existing solutions for known recurring tasks.
We expect that reusing a set of standard solutions to solve
similar tasks will facilitate the design and on-line adaptation of
the control systems of robots operating in human environments.
In this paper, we derive a set of standard solutions for
reaching behavior from human motion data. We also derive
stereotypical reaching trajectories for variations of the task,
in which obstacles are present. These stereotypical trajectories
are then compactly represented with Dynamic Movement Primitives.
On the humanoid robot Sarcos CB, this approach leads
to reproducible, predictable, and human-like reaching motions.
In International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2009), Kobe, Japan, May 12-19, 2009, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)
We provide a general approach for learning
robotic motor skills from human demonstration. To represent
an observed movement, a non-linear differential equation is
learned such that it reproduces this movement. Based on this
representation, we build a library of movements by labeling
each recorded movement according to task and context (e.g.,
grasping, placing, and releasing). Our differential equation is
formulated such that generalization can be achieved simply by
adapting a start and a goal parameter in the equation to the
desired position values of a movement. For object manipulation,
we present how our framework extends to the control of gripper
orientation and finger position. The feasibility of our approach
is demonstrated in simulation as well as on a real robot. The
robot learned a pick-and-place operation and a water-serving
task and could generalize these tasks to novel situations.
In Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2009. IROS 2009. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pages: 814-820, 2009, clmc (inproceedings)
Many critical elements for statically stable walking for legged robots have been known for a long time, including stability criteria based on support polygons, good foothold selection, recovery strategies to name a few. All these criteria have to be accounted for in the planning as well as the control phase. Most legged robots usually employ high gain position control, which means that it is crucially important that the planned reference trajectories are a good match for the actual terrain, and that tracking is accurate. Such an approach leads to conservative controllers, i.e. relatively low speed, ground speed matching, etc. Not surprisingly such controllers are not very robust - they are not suited for the real world use outside of the laboratory where the knowledge of the world is limited and error prone. Thus, to achieve robust robotic locomotion in the archetypical domain of legged systems, namely complex rough terrain, where the size of the obstacles are in the order of leg length, additional elements are required. A possible solution to improve the robustness of legged locomotion is to maximize the compliance of the controller. While compliance is trivially achieved by reduced feedback gains, for terrain requiring precise foot placement (e.g. climbing rocks, walking over pegs or cracks) compliance cannot be introduced at the cost of inferior tracking. Thus, model-based control and - in contrast to passive dynamic walkers - active balance control is required. To achieve these objectives, in this paper we add two crucial elements to legged locomotion, i.e., floating-base inverse dynamics control and predictive force control, and we show that these elements increase robustness in face of unknown and unanticipated perturbations (e.g. obstacles). Furthermore, we introduce a novel line-based COG trajectory planner, which yields a simpler algorithm than traditional polygon based methods and creates the appropriate input to our control system.We show results from bot- h simulation and real world of a robotic dog walking over non-perceived obstacles and rocky terrain. The results prove the effectivity of the inverse dynamics/force controller. The presented results show that we have all elements needed for robust all-terrain locomotion, which should also generalize to other legged systems, e.g., humanoid robots.
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems