Imitation Learning of Motion Coordination in Robots a Dynamical System Approach

The ease with which humans coordinate all their limbs is fascinating. Such a simplicity is the result of a complex process of motor coordination, i.e. the ability to resolve the biomechanical redundancy in an efficient and repeatable manner. Coordination enables a wide variety of everyday human activities from filling in a glass with water to pair figure skating. Therefore, it is highly desirable to endow robots with similar skills. Despite the apparent diversity of coordinated motions, all of them share a crucial similarity: these motions are dictated by underlying constraints. The constraints shape the formation of the coordination patterns between the different degrees of freedom. Coordination constraints may take a spatio-temporal form; for instance, during bimanual object reaching or while catching a ball on the fly. They also may relate to the dynamics of the task; for instance, when one applies a specific force profile to carry a load. In this thesis, we develop a framework for teaching coordination skills to robots. Coordination may take different forms, here, we focus on teaching a robot intra-limb and bimanual coordination, as well as coordination with a human during physical collaborative tasks. We use tools from well-established domains of Bayesian semiparametric learning (Gaussian Mixture Models and Regression, Hidden Markov Models), nonlinear dynamics, and adaptive control. We take a biologically inspired approach to robot control. Specifically, we adopt an imitation learning perspective to skill transfer, that offers a seamless and intuitive way of capturing the constraints contained in natural human movements. As the robot is taught from motion data provided by a human teacher, we exploit evidence from human motor control of the temporal evolution of human motions that may be described by dynamical systems. Throughout this thesis, we demonstrate that the dynamical system view on movement formation facilitates coordination control in robots. We explain how our framework for teaching coordination to a robot is built up, starting from intra-limb coordination and control, moving to bimanual coordination, and finally to physical interaction with a human. The dissertation opens with the discussion of learning discrete task-level coordination patterns, such as spatio-temporal constraints emerging between the two arms in bimanual manipulation tasks. The encoding of bimanual constraints occurs at the task level and proceeds through a discretization of the task as sequences of bimanual constraints. Once the constraints are learned, the robot utilizes them to couple the two dynamical systems that generate kinematic trajectories for the hands. Explicit coupling of the dynamical systems ensures accurate reproduction of the learned constraints, and proves to be crucial for successful accomplishment of the task. In the second part of this thesis, we consider learning one-arm control policies. We present an approach to extracting non-linear autonomous dynamical systems from kinematic data of arbitrary point-to-point motions. The proposed method aims to tackle the fundamental questions of learning robot coordination: (i) how to infer a motion representation that captures a multivariate coordination pattern between degrees of freedom and that generalizes this pattern to unseen contexts; (ii) whether the policy learned directly from demonstrations can provide robustness against spatial and temporal perturbations. Finally, we demonstrate that the developed dynamical system approach to coordination may go beyond kinematic motion learning. We consider physical interactions between a robot and a human in situations where they jointly perform manipulation tasks; in particular, the problem of collaborative carrying and positioning of a load. We extend the approach proposed in the second part of this thesis to incorporate haptic information into the learning process. As a result, the robot adapts its kinematic motion plan according to human intentions expressed through the haptic signals. Even after the robot has learned the task model, the human still remains a complex contact environment. To ensure robustness of the robot behavior in the face of the variability inherent to human movements, we wrap the learned task model in an adaptive impedance controller with automatic gain tuning. The techniques, developed in this thesis, have been applied to enable learning of unimanual and bimanual manipulation tasks on the robotics platforms HOAP-3, KATANA, and i-Cub, as well as to endow a pair of simulated robots with the ability to perform a manipulation task in the physical collaboration.

Billard, Aude
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis5112-5

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 Record created 2011-05-26, last modified 2020-04-20

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