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2020


Label Efficient Visual Abstractions for Autonomous Driving
Label Efficient Visual Abstractions for Autonomous Driving

Behl, A., Chitta, K., Prakash, A., Ohn-Bar, E., Geiger, A.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, October 2020 (conference)

Abstract
It is well known that semantic segmentation can be used as an effective intermediate representation for learning driving policies. However, the task of street scene semantic segmentation requires expensive annotations. Furthermore, segmentation algorithms are often trained irrespective of the actual driving task, using auxiliary image-space loss functions which are not guaranteed to maximize driving metrics such as safety or distance traveled per intervention. In this work, we seek to quantify the impact of reducing segmentation annotation costs on learned behavior cloning agents. We analyze several segmentation-based intermediate representations. We use these visual abstractions to systematically study the trade-off between annotation efficiency and driving performance, ie, the types of classes labeled, the number of image samples used to learn the visual abstraction model, and their granularity (eg, object masks vs. 2D bounding boxes). Our analysis uncovers several practical insights into how segmentation-based visual abstractions can be exploited in a more label efficient manner. Surprisingly, we find that state-of-the-art driving performance can be achieved with orders of magnitude reduction in annotation cost. Beyond label efficiency, we find several additional training benefits when leveraging visual abstractions, such as a significant reduction in the variance of the learned policy when compared to state-of-the-art end-to-end driving models.

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pdf slides video Project Page [BibTex]

2020


pdf slides video Project Page [BibTex]


Convolutional Occupancy Networks
Convolutional Occupancy Networks

Peng, S., Niemeyer, M., Mescheder, L., Pollefeys, M., Geiger, A.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Springer International Publishing, Cham, August 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Recently, implicit neural representations have gained popularity for learning-based 3D reconstruction. While demonstrating promising results, most implicit approaches are limited to comparably simple geometry of single objects and do not scale to more complicated or large-scale scenes. The key limiting factor of implicit methods is their simple fully-connected network architecture which does not allow for integrating local information in the observations or incorporating inductive biases such as translational equivariance. In this paper, we propose Convolutional Occupancy Networks, a more flexible implicit representation for detailed reconstruction of objects and 3D scenes. By combining convolutional encoders with implicit occupancy decoders, our model incorporates inductive biases, enabling structured reasoning in 3D space. We investigate the effectiveness of the proposed representation by reconstructing complex geometry from noisy point clouds and low-resolution voxel representations. We empirically find that our method enables the fine-grained implicit 3D reconstruction of single objects, scales to large indoor scenes, and generalizes well from synthetic to real data.

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pdf suppmat video Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat video Project Page [BibTex]


Category Level Object Pose Estimation via Neural Analysis-by-Synthesis
Category Level Object Pose Estimation via Neural Analysis-by-Synthesis

Chen, X., Dong, Z., Song, J., Geiger, A., Hilliges, O.

In European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), Springer International Publishing, Cham, August 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Many object pose estimation algorithms rely on the analysis-by-synthesis framework which requires explicit representations of individual object instances. In this paper we combine a gradient-based fitting procedure with a parametric neural image synthesis module that is capable of implicitly representing the appearance, shape and pose of entire object categories, thus rendering the need for explicit CAD models per object instance unnecessary. The image synthesis network is designed to efficiently span the pose configuration space so that model capacity can be used to capture the shape and local appearance (i.e., texture) variations jointly. At inference time the synthesized images are compared to the target via an appearance based loss and the error signal is backpropagated through the network to the input parameters. Keeping the network parameters fixed, this allows for iterative optimization of the object pose, shape and appearance in a joint manner and we experimentally show that the method can recover orientation of objects with high accuracy from 2D images alone. When provided with depth measurements, to overcome scale ambiguities, the method can accurately recover the full 6DOF pose successfully.

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Project Page pdf suppmat [BibTex]

Project Page pdf suppmat [BibTex]


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

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

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters ( Early Access ), IEEE, July 2020 (article)

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

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DOI [BibTex]

DOI [BibTex]


Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation
Walking Control Based on Step Timing Adaptation

Khadiv, M., Herzog, A., Moosavian, S. A. A., Righetti, L.

IEEE Transactions on Robotics, 36, pages: 629 - 643, IEEE, June 2020 (article)

Abstract
Step adjustment can improve the gait robustness of biped robots; however, the adaptation of step timing is often neglected as it gives rise to nonconvex problems when optimized over several footsteps. In this article, we argue that it is not necessary to optimize walking over several steps to ensure gait viability and show that it is sufficient to merely select the next step timing and location. Using this insight, we propose a novel walking pattern generator that optimally selects step location and timing at every control cycle. Our approach is computationally simple compared to standard approaches in the literature, yet guarantees that any viable state will remain viable in the future. We propose a swing foot adaptation strategy and integrate the pattern generator with an inverse dynamics controller that does not explicitly control the center of mass nor the foot center of pressure. This is particularly useful for biped robots with limited control authority over their foot center of pressure, such as robots with point feet or passive ankles. Extensive simulations on a humanoid robot with passive ankles demonstrate the capabilities of the approach in various walking situations, including external pushes and foot slippage, and emphasize the importance of step timing adaptation to stabilize walking.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


Self-supervised motion deblurring
Self-supervised motion deblurring

Liu, P., Janai, J., Pollefeys, M., Sattler, T., Geiger, A.

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020 (article)

Abstract
Motion blurry images challenge many computer vision algorithms, e.g., feature detection, motion estimation, or object recognition. Deep convolutional neural networks are state-of-the-art for image deblurring. However, obtaining training data with corresponding sharp and blurry image pairs can be difficult. In this paper, we present a differentiable reblur model for self-supervised motion deblurring, which enables the network to learn from real-world blurry image sequences without relying on sharp images for supervision. Our key insight is that motion cues obtained from consecutive images yield sufficient information to inform the deblurring task. We therefore formulate deblurring as an inverse rendering problem, taking into account the physical image formation process: we first predict two deblurred images from which we estimate the corresponding optical flow. Using these predictions, we re-render the blurred images and minimize the difference with respect to the original blurry inputs. We use both synthetic and real dataset for experimental evaluations. Our experiments demonstrate that self-supervised single image deblurring is really feasible and leads to visually compelling results.

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pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Blog [BibTex]


Learning Unsupervised Hierarchical Part Decomposition of 3D Objects from a Single RGB Image
Learning Unsupervised Hierarchical Part Decomposition of 3D Objects from a Single RGB Image

Paschalidou, D., Gool, L., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humans perceive the 3D world as a set of distinct objects that are characterized by various low-level (geometry, reflectance) and high-level (connectivity, adjacency, symmetry) properties. Recent methods based on convolutional neural networks (CNNs) demonstrated impressive progress in 3D reconstruction, even when using a single 2D image as input. However, the majority of these methods focuses on recovering the local 3D geometry of an object without considering its part-based decomposition or relations between parts. We address this challenging problem by proposing a novel formulation that allows to jointly recover the geometry of a 3D object as a set of primitives as well as their latent hierarchical structure without part-level supervision. Our model recovers the higher level structural decomposition of various objects in the form of a binary tree of primitives, where simple parts are represented with fewer primitives and more complex parts are modeled with more components. Our experiments on the ShapeNet and D-FAUST datasets demonstrate that considering the organization of parts indeed facilitates reasoning about 3D geometry.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Poster Video 1 [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Poster Video 1 [BibTex]


GRAF: Generative Radiance Fields for 3D-Aware Image Synthesis
GRAF: Generative Radiance Fields for 3D-Aware Image Synthesis

Schwarz, K., Liao, Y., Niemeyer, M., Geiger, A.

In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS), 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
While 2D generative adversarial networks have enabled high-resolution image synthesis, they largely lack an understanding of the 3D world and the image formation process. Thus, they do not provide precise control over camera viewpoint or object pose. To address this problem, several recent approaches leverage intermediate voxel-based representations in combination with differentiable rendering. However, existing methods either produce low image resolution or fall short in disentangling camera and scene properties, eg, the object identity may vary with the viewpoint. In this paper, we propose a generative model for radiance fields which have recently proven successful for novel view synthesis of a single scene. In contrast to voxel-based representations, radiance fields are not confined to a coarse discretization of the 3D space, yet allow for disentangling camera and scene properties while degrading gracefully in the presence of reconstruction ambiguity. By introducing a multi-scale patch-based discriminator, we demonstrate synthesis of high-resolution images while training our model from unposed 2D images alone. We systematically analyze our approach on several challenging synthetic and real-world datasets. Our experiments reveal that radiance fields are a powerful representation for generative image synthesis, leading to 3D consistent models that render with high fidelity.

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pdf suppmat video Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat video Project Page [BibTex]


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A Real-Robot Dataset for Assessing Transferability of Learned Dynamics Models

Agudelo-España, D., Zadaianchuk, A., Wenk, P., Garg, A., Akpo, J., Grimminger, F., Viereck, J., Naveau, M., Righetti, L., Martius, G., Krause, A., Schölkopf, B., Bauer, S., Wüthrich, M.

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2020 (conference) Accepted

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Project Page PDF [BibTex]

Project Page PDF [BibTex]


Towards Unsupervised Learning of Generative Models for 3D Controllable Image Synthesis
Towards Unsupervised Learning of Generative Models for 3D Controllable Image Synthesis

Liao, Y., Schwarz, K., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In recent years, Generative Adversarial Networks have achieved impressive results in photorealistic image synthesis. This progress nurtures hopes that one day the classical rendering pipeline can be replaced by efficient models that are learned directly from images. However, current image synthesis models operate in the 2D domain where disentangling 3D properties such as camera viewpoint or object pose is challenging. Furthermore, they lack an interpretable and controllable representation. Our key hypothesis is that the image generation process should be modeled in 3D space as the physical world surrounding us is intrinsically three-dimensional. We define the new task of 3D controllable image synthesis and propose an approach for solving it by reasoning both in 3D space and in the 2D image domain. We demonstrate that our model is able to disentangle latent 3D factors of simple multi-object scenes in an unsupervised fashion from raw images. Compared to pure 2D baselines, it allows for synthesizing scenes that are consistent wrt. changes in viewpoint or object pose. We further evaluate various 3D representations in terms of their usefulness for this challenging task.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides Poster [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides Poster [BibTex]


Learning Neural Light Transport
Learning Neural Light Transport

Sanzenbacher, P., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, 2020 (article)

Abstract
In recent years, deep generative models have gained significance due to their ability to synthesize natural-looking images with applications ranging from virtual reality to data augmentation for training computer vision models. While existing models are able to faithfully learn the image distribution of the training set, they often lack controllability as they operate in 2D pixel space and do not model the physical image formation process. In this work, we investigate the importance of 3D reasoning for photorealistic rendering. We present an approach for learning light transport in static and dynamic 3D scenes using a neural network with the goal of predicting photorealistic images. In contrast to existing approaches that operate in the 2D image domain, our approach reasons in both 3D and 2D space, thus enabling global illumination effects and manipulation of 3D scene geometry. Experimentally, we find that our model is able to produce photorealistic renderings of static and dynamic scenes. Moreover, it compares favorably to baselines which combine path tracing and image denoising at the same computational budget.

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arxiv [BibTex]


Exploring Data Aggregation in Policy Learning for Vision-based Urban Autonomous Driving
Exploring Data Aggregation in Policy Learning for Vision-based Urban Autonomous Driving

Prakash, A., Behl, A., Ohn-Bar, E., Chitta, K., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Data aggregation techniques can significantly improve vision-based policy learning within a training environment, e.g., learning to drive in a specific simulation condition. However, as on-policy data is sequentially sampled and added in an iterative manner, the policy can specialize and overfit to the training conditions. For real-world applications, it is useful for the learned policy to generalize to novel scenarios that differ from the training conditions. To improve policy learning while maintaining robustness when training end-to-end driving policies, we perform an extensive analysis of data aggregation techniques in the CARLA environment. We demonstrate how the majority of them have poor generalization performance, and develop a novel approach with empirically better generalization performance compared to existing techniques. Our two key ideas are (1) to sample critical states from the collected on-policy data based on the utility they provide to the learned policy in terms of driving behavior, and (2) to incorporate a replay buffer which progressively focuses on the high uncertainty regions of the policy's state distribution. We evaluate the proposed approach on the CARLA NoCrash benchmark, focusing on the most challenging driving scenarios with dense pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Our approach improves driving success rate by 16% over state-of-the-art, achieving 87% of the expert performance while also reducing the collision rate by an order of magnitude without the use of any additional modality, auxiliary tasks, architectural modifications or reward from the environment.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Video 1 [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Video 1 [BibTex]


HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking
HOTA: A Higher Order Metric for Evaluating Multi-Object Tracking

Luiten, J., Osep, A., Dendorfer, P., Torr, P., Geiger, A., Leal-Taixe, L., Leibe, B.

International Journal of Computer Vision (IJCV), 2020 (article)

Abstract
Multi-Object Tracking (MOT) has been notoriously difficult to evaluate. Previous metrics overemphasize the importance of either detection or association. To address this, we present a novel MOT evaluation metric, HOTA (Higher Order Tracking Accuracy), which explicitly balances the effect of performing accurate detection, association and localization into a single unified metric for comparing trackers. HOTA decomposes into a family of sub-metrics which are able to evaluate each of five basic error types separately, which enables clear analysis of tracking performance. We evaluate the effectiveness of HOTA on the MOTChallenge benchmark, and show that it is able to capture important aspects of MOT performance not previously taken into account by established metrics. Furthermore, we show HOTA scores better align with human visual evaluation of tracking performance.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


Learning Situational Driving
Learning Situational Driving

Ohn-Bar, E., Prakash, A., Behl, A., Chitta, K., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Human drivers have a remarkable ability to drive in diverse visual conditions and situations, e.g., from maneuvering in rainy, limited visibility conditions with no lane markings to turning in a busy intersection while yielding to pedestrians. In contrast, we find that state-of-the-art sensorimotor driving models struggle when encountering diverse settings with varying relationships between observation and action. To generalize when making decisions across diverse conditions, humans leverage multiple types of situation-specific reasoning and learning strategies. Motivated by this observation, we develop a framework for learning a situational driving policy that effectively captures reasoning under varying types of scenarios. Our key idea is to learn a mixture model with a set of policies that can capture multiple driving modes. We first optimize the mixture model through behavior cloning, and show it to result in significant gains in terms of driving performance in diverse conditions. We then refine the model by directly optimizing for the driving task itself, i.e., supervised with the navigation task reward. Our method is more scalable than methods assuming access to privileged information, e.g., perception labels, as it only assumes demonstration and reward-based supervision. We achieve over 98% success rate on the CARLA driving benchmark as well as state-of-the-art performance on a newly introduced generalization benchmark.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides [BibTex]


On Joint Estimation of Pose, Geometry and svBRDF from a Handheld Scanner
On Joint Estimation of Pose, Geometry and svBRDF from a Handheld Scanner

Schmitt, C., Donne, S., Riegler, G., Koltun, V., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We propose a novel formulation for joint recovery of camera pose, object geometry and spatially-varying BRDF. The input to our approach is a sequence of RGB-D images captured by a mobile, hand-held scanner that actively illuminates the scene with point light sources. Compared to previous works that jointly estimate geometry and materials from a hand-held scanner, we formulate this problem using a single objective function that can be minimized using off-the-shelf gradient-based solvers. By integrating material clustering as a differentiable operation into the optimization process, we avoid pre-processing heuristics and demonstrate that our model is able to determine the correct number of specular materials independently. We provide a study on the importance of each component in our formulation and on the requirements of the initial geometry. We show that optimizing over the poses is crucial for accurately recovering fine details and that our approach naturally results in a semantically meaningful material segmentation.

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pdf Project Page Slides Video Poster [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Slides Video Poster [BibTex]


Intrinsic Autoencoders for Joint Neural Rendering and Intrinsic Image Decomposition
Intrinsic Autoencoders for Joint Neural Rendering and Intrinsic Image Decomposition

Hassan Alhaija, Siva Mustikovela, Varun Jampani, Justus Thies, Matthias Niessner, Andreas Geiger, Carsten Rother

In International Conference on 3D Vision (3DV), 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Neural rendering techniques promise efficient photo-realistic image synthesis while providing rich control over scene parameters by learning the physical image formation process. While several supervised methods have been pro-posed for this task, acquiring a dataset of images with accurately aligned 3D models is very difficult. The main contribution of this work is to lift this restriction by training a neural rendering algorithm from unpaired data. We pro-pose an auto encoder for joint generation of realistic images from synthetic 3D models while simultaneously decomposing real images into their intrinsic shape and appearance properties. In contrast to a traditional graphics pipeline, our approach does not require to specify all scene properties, such as material parameters and lighting by hand.Instead, we learn photo-realistic deferred rendering from a small set of 3D models and a larger set of unaligned real images, both of which are easy to acquire in practice. Simultaneously, we obtain accurate intrinsic decompositions of real images while not requiring paired ground truth. Our experiments confirm that a joint treatment of rendering and de-composition is indeed beneficial and that our approach out-performs state-of-the-art image-to-image translation base-lines both qualitatively and quantitatively.

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pdf suppmat [BibTex]

pdf suppmat [BibTex]


Differentiable Volumetric Rendering: Learning Implicit 3D Representations without 3D Supervision
Differentiable Volumetric Rendering: Learning Implicit 3D Representations without 3D Supervision

Niemeyer, M., Mescheder, L., Oechsle, M., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning-based 3D reconstruction methods have shown impressive results. However, most methods require 3D supervision which is often hard to obtain for real-world datasets. Recently, several works have proposed differentiable rendering techniques to train reconstruction models from RGB images. Unfortunately, these approaches are currently restricted to voxel- and mesh-based representations, suffering from discretization or low resolution. In this work, we propose a differentiable rendering formulation for implicit shape and texture representations. Implicit representations have recently gained popularity as they represent shape and texture continuously. Our key insight is that depth gradients can be derived analytically using the concept of implicit differentiation. This allows us to learn implicit shape and texture representations directly from RGB images. We experimentally show that our single-view reconstructions rival those learned with full 3D supervision. Moreover, we find that our method can be used for multi-view 3D reconstruction, directly resulting in watertight meshes.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Video 3 Slides Poster [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Video 3 Slides Poster [BibTex]


Computer Vision for Autonomous Vehicles: Problems, Datasets and State-of-the-Art
Computer Vision for Autonomous Vehicles: Problems, Datasets and State-of-the-Art

Janai, J., Güney, F., Behl, A., Geiger, A.

Arxiv, Foundations and Trends in Computer Graphics and Vision, 2020 (book)

Abstract
Recent years have witnessed enormous progress in AI-related fields such as computer vision, machine learning, and autonomous vehicles. As with any rapidly growing field, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay up-to-date or enter the field as a beginner. While several survey papers on particular sub-problems have appeared, no comprehensive survey on problems, datasets, and methods in computer vision for autonomous vehicles has been published. This monograph attempts to narrow this gap by providing a survey on the state-of-the-art datasets and techniques. Our survey includes both the historically most relevant literature as well as the current state of the art on several specific topics, including recognition, reconstruction, motion estimation, tracking, scene understanding, and end-to-end learning for autonomous driving. Towards this goal, we analyze the performance of the state of the art on several challenging benchmarking datasets, including KITTI, MOT, and Cityscapes. Besides, we discuss open problems and current research challenges. To ease accessibility and accommodate missing references, we also provide a website that allows navigating topics as well as methods and provides additional information.

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pdf Project Page link Project Page [BibTex]


Learning Implicit Surface Light Fields
Learning Implicit Surface Light Fields

Oechsle, M., Niemeyer, M., Reiser, C., Mescheder, L., Strauss, T., Geiger, A.

In International Conference on 3D Vision (3DV), 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Implicit representations of 3D objects have recently achieved impressive results on learning-based 3D reconstruction tasks. While existing works use simple texture models to represent object appearance, photo-realistic image synthesis requires reasoning about the complex interplay of light, geometry and surface properties. In this work, we propose a novel implicit representation for capturing the visual appearance of an object in terms of its surface light field. In contrast to existing representations, our implicit model represents surface light fields in a continuous fashion and independent of the geometry. Moreover, we condition the surface light field with respect to the location and color of a small light source. Compared to traditional surface light field models, this allows us to manipulate the light source and relight the object using environment maps. We further demonstrate the capabilities of our model to predict the visual appearance of an unseen object from a single real RGB image and corresponding 3D shape information. As evidenced by our experiments, our model is able to infer rich visual appearance including shadows and specular reflections. Finally, we show that the proposed representation can be embedded into a variational auto-encoder for generating novel appearances that conform to the specified illumination conditions.

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pdf suppmat Project Page [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Project Page [BibTex]

2011


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Toward simple control for complex, autonomous robotic applications: combining discrete and rhythmic motor primitives

Degallier, S., Righetti, L., Gay, S., Ijspeert, A.

Autonomous Robots, 31(2-3):155-181, October 2011 (article)

Abstract
Vertebrates are able to quickly adapt to new environments in a very robust, seemingly effortless way. To explain both this adaptivity and robustness, a very promising perspective in neurosciences is the modular approach to movement generation: Movements results from combinations of a finite set of stable motor primitives organized at the spinal level. In this article we apply this concept of modular generation of movements to the control of robots with a high number of degrees of freedom, an issue that is challenging notably because planning complex, multidimensional trajectories in time-varying environments is a laborious and costly process. We thus propose to decrease the complexity of the planning phase through the use of a combination of discrete and rhythmic motor primitives, leading to the decoupling of the planning phase (i.e. the choice of behavior) and the actual trajectory generation. Such implementation eases the control of, and the switch between, different behaviors by reducing the dimensionality of the high-level commands. Moreover, since the motor primitives are generated by dynamical systems, the trajectories can be smoothly modulated, either by high-level commands to change the current behavior or by sensory feedback information to adapt to environmental constraints. In order to show the generality of our approach, we apply the framework to interactive drumming and infant crawling in a humanoid robot. These experiments illustrate the simplicity of the control architecture in terms of planning, the integration of different types of feedback (vision and contact) and the capacity of autonomously switching between different behaviors (crawling and simple reaching).

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

2011


link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Force Control Policies for Compliant Manipulation

Kalakrishnan, M., Righetti, L., Pastor, P., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 4639-4644, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Control of legged robots with optimal distribution of contact forces

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 11th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots, pages: 318-324, IEEE, Bled, Slovenia, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The development of agile and safe humanoid robots require controllers that guarantee both high tracking performance and compliance with the environment. More specifically, the control of contact interaction is of crucial importance for robots that will actively interact with their environment. Model-based controllers such as inverse dynamics or operational space control are very appealing as they offer both high tracking performance and compliance. However, while widely used for fully actuated systems such as manipulators, they are not yet standard controllers for legged robots such as humanoids. Indeed such robots are fundamentally different from manipulators as they are underactuated due to their floating-base and subject to switching contact constraints. In this paper we present an inverse dynamics controller for legged robots that use torque redundancy to create an optimal distribution of contact constraints. The resulting controller is able to minimize, given a desired motion, any quadratic cost of the contact constraints at each instant of time. In particular we show how this can be used to minimize tangential forces during locomotion, therefore significantly improving the locomotion of legged robots on difficult terrains. In addition to the theoretical result, we present simulations of a humanoid and a quadruped robot, as well as experiments on a real quadruped robot that demonstrate the advantages of the controller.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Learning Motion Primitive Goals for Robust Manipulation

Stulp, F., Theodorou, E., Kalakrishnan, M., Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Schaal, S.

In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 325-331, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Inverse Dynamics Control of Floating-Base Robots with External Constraints: a Unified View

Righetti, L., Buchli, J., Mistry, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pages: 1085-1090, IEEE, Shanghai, China, 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers have proved to be very efficient for compliant control of fully actuated robots such as fixed base manipulators. However legged robots such as humanoids are inherently different as they are underactuated and subject to switching external contact constraints. Recently several methods have been proposed to create inverse dynamics controllers and operational space controllers for these robots. In an attempt to compare these different approaches, we develop a general framework for inverse dynamics control and show that these methods lead to very similar controllers. We are then able to greatly simplify recent whole-body controllers based on operational space approaches using kinematic projections, bringing them closer to efficient practical implementations. We also generalize these controllers such that they can be optimal under an arbitrary quadratic cost in the commands.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Operational Space Control of Constrained and Underactuated Systems

Mistry, M., Righetti, L.

In Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems, Los Angeles, CA, USA, June 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
The operational space formulation (Khatib, 1987), applied to rigid-body manipulators, describes how to decouple task-space and null-space dynamics, and write control equations that correspond only to forces at the end-effector or, alternatively, only to motion within the null-space. We would like to apply this useful theory to modern humanoids and other legged systems, for manipulation or similar tasks, however these systems present additional challenges due to their underactuated floating bases and contact states that can dynamically change. In recent work, Sentis et al. derived controllers for such systems by implementing a task Jacobian projected into a space consistent with the supporting constraints and underactuation (the so called "support consistent reduced Jacobian"). Here, we take a new approach to derive operational space controllers for constrained underactuated systems, by first considering the operational space dynamics within "projected inverse-dynamics" (Aghili, 2005), and subsequently resolving underactuation through the addition of dynamically consistent control torques. Doing so results in a simplified control solution compared with previous results, and importantly yields several new insights into the underlying problem of operational space control in constrained environments: 1) Underactuated systems, such as humanoid robots, cannot in general completely decouple task and null-space dynamics. However, 2) there may exist an infinite number of control solutions to realize desired task-space dynamics, and 3) these solutions involve the addition of dynamically consistent null-space motion or constraint forces (or combinations of both). In light of these findings, we present several possible control solutions, with varying optimization criteria, and highlight some of their practical consequences.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]


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Online movement adaptation based on previous sensor experiences

Pastor, P., Righetti, L., Kalakrishnan, M., Schaal, S.

In 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pages: 365-371, IEEE, San Francisco, USA, sep 2011 (inproceedings)

Abstract
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.

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link (url) DOI [BibTex]

link (url) DOI [BibTex]