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Institute Talks

Imitation of Human Motion Planning

Talk
  • 29 June 2018 • 12:00 12:45
  • Jim Mainprice
  • N3.022 (Aquarium)

Humans act upon their environment through motion, the ability to plan their movements is therefore an essential component of their autonomy. In recent decades, motion planning has been widely studied in robotics and computer graphics. Nevertheless robots still fail to achieve human reactivity and coordination. The need for more efficient motion planning algorithms has been present through out my own research on "human-aware" motion planning, which aims to take the surroundings humans explicitly into account. I believe imitation learning is the key to this particular problem as it allows to learn both, new motion skills and predictive models, two capabilities that are at the heart of "human-aware" robots while simultaneously holding the promise of faster and more reactive motion generation. In this talk I will present my work in this direction.

Learning Control for Intelligent Physical Systems

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 14:15 14:45
  • Dr. Sebastian Trimpe
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

Modern technology allows us to collect, process, and share more data than ever before. This data revolution opens up new ways to design control and learning algorithms, which will form the algorithmic foundation for future intelligent systems that shall act autonomously in the physical world. Starting from a discussion of the special challenges when combining machine learning and control, I will present some of our recent research in this exciting area. Using the example of the Apollo robot learning to balance a stick in its hand, I will explain how intelligent agents can learn new behavior from just a few experimental trails. I will also discuss the need for theoretical guarantees in learning-based control, and how we can obtain them by combining learning and control theory.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

Household Assistants: the Path from the Care-o-bot Vision to First Products

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 14:45 15:15
  • Dr. Martin Hägele
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

In 1995 Fraunhofer IPA embarked on a mission towards designing a personal robot assistant for everyday tasks. In the following years Care-O-bot developed into a long-term experiment for exploring and demonstrating new robot technologies and future product visions. The recent fourth generation of the Care-O-bot, introduced in 2014 aimed at designing an integrated system which addressed a number of innovations such as modularity, “low-cost” by making use of new manufacturing processes, and advanced human-user interaction. Some 15 systems were built and the intellectual property (IP) generated by over 20 years of research was recently licensed to a start-up. The presentation will review the path from an experimental platform for building up expertise in various robotic disciplines to recent pilot applications based on the now commercial Care-O-bot hardware.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

The Critical Role of Atoms at Surfaces and Interfaces: Do we really have control? Can we?

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 15:45 16:15
  • Prof. Dr. Dawn Bonnell
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

With the ubiquity of catalyzed reactions in manufacturing, the emergence of the device laden internet of things, and global challenges with respect to water and energy, it has never been more important to understand atomic interactions in the functional materials that can provide solutions in these spaces.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

Interactive Visualization – A Key Discipline for Big Data Analysis

Talk
  • 13 July 2018 • 15:00 15:30
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Ertl
  • MPI-IS, Stuttgart, Lecture Hall 2 D5

Big Data has become the general term relating to the benefits and threats which result from the huge amount of data collected in all parts of society. While data acquisition, storage and access are relevant technical aspects, the analysis of the collected data turns out to be at the core of the Big Data challenge. Automatic data mining and information retrieval techniques have made much progress but many application scenarios remain in which the human in the loop plays an essential role. Consequently, interactive visualization techniques have become a key discipline of Big Data analysis and the field is reaching out to many new application domains. This talk will give examples from current visualization research projects at the University of Stuttgart demonstrating the thematic breadth of application scenarios and the technical depth of the employed methods. We will cover advances in scientific visualization of fields and particles, visual analytics of document collections and movement patterns as well as cognitive aspects.

Organizers: Katherine Kuchenbecker Ildikó Papp-Wiedmann Matthias Tröndle Claudia Daefler

  • Konrad Schindler
  • Max Planck House Lecture Hall

I will present selected research projects of the Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing Group at ETH, including (i) 3D scene flow estimation for stereo video captured from a car; (ii) extraction of road networks from aerial images; and (iii) 3D reconstruction from large, unstructured (e.g. crowd-sourced) image collections.


  • Leonid Sigal
  • MRC Seminar Room

The growing scale of image and video datasets in vision makes labeling and annotation of such datasets, for training of recognition models, difficult and time consuming. Further, richer models often require richer labelings of the data, that are typically even more difficult to obtain. In this talk I will focus on two models that make use of different forms of supervision for two different vision tasks.  

In the first part of this talk I will focus on object detection. The appearance of an object changes profoundly with pose, camera view and interactions of the object with other objects in the scene. This makes it challenging to learn detectors based on an object-level labels (e.g., “car”). We postulate that having a richer set of labelings (at different levels of granularity) for an object, including finer-grained sub-categories, consistent in appearance and view, and higher-order composites – contextual groupings of objects consistent in their spatial layout and appearance, can significantly alleviate these problems. However, obtaining such a rich set of annotations, including annotation of an exponentially growing set of object groupings, is infeasible. To this end, we propose a weakly-supervised framework for object detection where we discover subcategories and the composites automatically with only traditional object-level category labels as input.

In the second part of the talk I will focus on the framework for large scale image set and video summarization. Starting from the intuition that the characteristics of the two media types are different but complementary, we develop a fast and easily-parallelizable approach for creating not only video summaries but also novel structural summaries of events in the form of the storyline graphs. The storyline graphs can illustrate various events or activities associated with the topic in the form of a branching directed network. The video summarization is achieved by diversity ranking on the similarity graphs between images and video frame, thereby treating consumer image as essentially a form of weak-supervision. The reconstruction of storyline graphs on the other hand is formulated as inference of the sparse time-varying directed graphs from a set of photo streams with assistance of consumer videos.

Time permitting I will also talk about a few other recent project highlights.


  • Jonathan Taylor
  • MRZ Seminar Room

Abstract: I will present a general framework for modelling and recovering 3D shape and pose using subdivision surfaces. To demonstrate this frameworks generality, I will show how to recover both a personalized rigged hand model from a sequence of depth images and a blend shape model of dolphin pose from a collection of 2D dolphin images. The core requirement is the formulation of a generative model in which the control vertices of a smooth subdivision surface are parameterized (e.g. with joint angles or blend weights) by a differentiable deformation function. The energy function that falls out of measuring the deviation between the surface and the observed data is also differentiable and can be minimized through standard, albeit tricky, gradient based non-linear optimization from a reasonable initial guess. The latter can often be obtained using machine learning methods when manual intervention is undesirable. Satisfyingly, the "tricks" involved in the former are elegant and widen the applicability of these methods.


Discovering Object Classes from Activities

Talk
  • 29 August 2014 • 08:30:00
  • Abhilash Srikantha
  • MPH Conference Room

In order to avoid an expensive manual labeling process or to learn object classes autonomously without human intervention, object discovery techniques have been proposed that extract visual similar objects from weakly labelled videos. However, the problem of discovering small or medium sized objects is largely unexplored. We observe that videos with activities involving human-object interactions can serve as weakly labelled data for such cases. Since neither object appearance nor motion is distinct enough to discover objects in these videos, we propose a framework that samples from a space of algorithms and their parameters to extract sequences of object proposals. Furthermore, we model similarity of objects based on appearance and functionality, which is derived from human and object motion. We show that functionality is an important cue for discovering objects from activities and demonstrate the generality of the model on three challenging RGB-D and RGB datasets.


Examples of Machine Learning and Data Science at Facebook

IS Colloquium
  • 11 August 2014 • 11:15 12:30
  • Joaquin Quiñonero Candela
  • Max Planck Haus Lecture Hall

Facebook serves close to a billion people every day, who are only able to consume a small subset of the information available to them. In this talk I will give some examples of how machine learning is used to personalize people’s Facebook experience. I will also present some data science experiments with fairly counter-intuitive results.


  • Lourdes Agapito
  • MRZ seminar room

In this talk I will discuss two related problems in 3D reconstruction: (i) recovering the 3D shape of a temporally varying non-rigid 3D surface given a single video sequence and (ii) reconstructing different instances of the same object class category given a large collection of images from that category. In both cases we extract dense 3D shape information by analysing shape variation -- in one case of the same object instance over time and in the other across different instances of objects that belong to the same class.

First I will discuss the problem of dense capture of 3D non-rigid surfaces from a monocular video sequence. We take a purely model-free approach where no strong assumptions are made about the object we are looking at or the way it deforms. We apply low rank and spatial smoothness priors to obtain dense non-rigid models using a variational approach.

Second I will describe our recent approach to populating the Pascal VOC dataset with dense, per-object 3D reconstructions, bootstrapped from class labels, ground truth figure-ground segmentations and a small set of keypoint annotations. Our proposed algorithm first estimates camera viewpoint using rigid structure-from-motion, then reconstructs objects shapes by optimizing over visual hull proposals guided by loose within-class shape similarity assumptions.


Approximate inference for stochastic differential equations

IS Colloquium
  • 15 July 2014 • 11:15 12:15
  • Manfred Opper
  • Max Planck Haus Lecture Hall

Stochastic differential equations (SDEs) arise naturally as descriptions of continuous time dynamical systems. My talk addresses the problem of inferring the dynamical state and parameters of such systems from observations taken at discrete times. I will discuss the application of approximate inference methods such as the variational method and expectation propagation and show how higher dimensional systems can be treated by a mean field approximation. In the second part of my talk I will discuss the nonparametric estimation of the drift (i.e. the deterministic part of the ‘force’ which governs the dynamics) as a function of the state using Gaussian process approaches.

Organizers: Philipp Hennig Michel Besserve


  • Christian Theobalt
  • Max Planck House Lecture Hall

Even though many challenges remain unsolved, in recent years computer graphics algorithms to render photo-realistic imagery have seen tremendous progress. An important prerequisite for high-quality renderings is the availability of good models of the scenes to be rendered, namely models of shape, motion and appearance. Unfortunately, the technology to create such models has not kept pace with the technology to render the imagery. In fact, we observe a content creation bottleneck, as it often takes man months of tedious manual work by a animation artists to craft models of moving virtual scenes.
To overcome this limitation, the research community has been developing techniques to capture models of dynamic scenes from real world examples, for instance methods that rely on footage recorded with cameras or other sensors. One example are performance capture methods that measure detailed dynamic surface models, for example of actors or an actor's face, from multi-view video and without markers in the scene. Even though such 4D capture methods made big strides ahead, they are still at an early stage of their development. Their application is limited to scenes of moderate complexity in controlled environments, reconstructed detail is limited, and captured content cannot be easily modified, to name only a few restrictions.
In this talk, I will elaborate on some ideas on how to go beyond this limited scope of 4D reconstruction, and show some results from our recent work. For instance, I will show how we can capture more complex scenes with many objects or subjects in close interaction, as well as very challenging scenes of a smaller scale, such a hand motion. The talk will also show how we can capitalize on more sophisticated light transport models and inverse rendering to enable high-quality reconstruction in much more uncontrolled scenes, eventually also outdoors, and with very few cameras. I will also demonstrate how to represent captured scenes such that they can be conveniently modified. If time allows, the talk will cover some of our recent ideas on how to perform advanced edits of videos (e.g. removing or modifying dynamic objects in scenes) by exploiting reconstructed 4D models, as well as robustly found inter- and intra-frame correspondences.

Organizers: Gerard Pons-Moll


Compressive Sensing and Beyond

IS Colloquium
  • 23 June 2014 • 15:00 16:15
  • Holger Rauhut
  • Max Planck Haus Lecture Hall

The recent theory of compressive sensing predicts that (approximately) sparse vectors can be recovered from vastly incomplete linear measurements using efficient algorithms. This principle has a large number of potential applications in signal and image processing, machine learning and more. Optimal measurement matrices in this context known so far are based on randomness. Recovery algorithms include convex optimization approaches (l1-minimization) as well as greedy methods. Gaussian and Bernoulli random matrices are provably optimal in the sense that the smallest possible number of samples is required. Such matrices, however, are of limited practical interest because of the lack of any structure. In fact, applications demand for certain structure so that there is only limited freedom to inject randomness. We present recovery results for various structured random matrices including random partial Fourier matrices and partial random circulant matrices. We will also review recent extensions of compressive sensing for recovering matrices of low rank from incomplete information via efficient algorithms such as nuclear norm minimization. This principle has recently found applications for phaseless estimation, i.e., in situations where only the magnitude of measurements is available. Another extension considers the recovery of low rank tensors (multi-dimensional arrays) from incomplete linear information. Several obstacles arise when passing from matrices and tensors such as the lack of a singular value decomposition which shares all the nice properties of the matrix singular value decomposition. Although only partial theoretical results are available, we discuss algorithmic approaches for this problem.

Organizers: Michel Besserve


  • Brian Corner
  • MRC Seminar Room

A goal in virtual reality is for the user to experience a synthetic environment as if it were real. Engagement with virtual actors is a big part of the sensory context, thus getting the people "right" is critical for success. Size, shape, gender, ethnicity, clothing, color, texture, movement, among other attributes must be layered and nuanced to provide an accurate encounter between an actor and a user. In this talk, I discuss the development of digital human models and how they may be improved to obtain the high realism for successful engagement in a virtual world.