The paper introduces CycleIK, a neuro-robotic approach that wraps two novel neuro-inspired methods for the inverse kinematics (IK) task, a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), and a Multi-Layer Perceptron architecture. These methods can be used in a standalone fashion, but we also show how embedding these into a hybrid neuro-genetic IK pipeline allows for further optimization via sequential least-squares programming (SLSQP) or a genetic algorithm (GA). The models are trained and tested on dense datasets that were collected from random robot configurations of the new Neuro-Inspired COLlaborator (NICOL), a semi-humanoid robot with two redundant 8-DoF manipulators. We utilize the weighted multi-objective function from the state-of-the-art BioIK method to support the training process and our hybrid neuro-genetic architecture. We show that the neural models can compete with state-of-the-art IK approaches, which allows for deployment directly to robotic hardware. Additionally, it is shown that the incorporation of the genetic algorithm improves the precision while simultaneously reducing the overall runtime.
Robotic platforms that can efficiently collaborate with humans in physical tasks constitute a major goal in robotics. However, many existing robotic platforms are either designed for social interaction or industrial object manipulation tasks. The design of collaborative robots seldom emphasizes both their social interaction and physical collaboration abilities. To bridge this gap, we present the novel semi-humanoid NICOL, the Neuro-Inspired COLlaborator. NICOL is a large, newly designed, scaled-up version of its well-evaluated predecessor, the Neuro-Inspired COmpanion (NICO). While we adopt NICO's head and facial expression display, we extend its manipulation abilities in terms of precision, object size and workspace size. To introduce and evaluate NICOL, we first develop and extend different neural and hybrid neuro-genetic visuomotor approaches initially developed for the NICO to the larger NICOL and its more complex kinematics. Furthermore, we present a novel neuro-genetic approach that improves the grasp accuracy of the NICOL to over 99%, outperforming the state-of-the-art IK solvers KDL, TRACK-IK and BIO-IK. Furthermore, we introduce the social interaction capabilities of NICOL, including the auditory and visual capabilities, but also the face and emotion generation capabilities. Overall, this article presents for the first time the humanoid robot NICOL and, thereby, with the neuro-genetic approaches, contributes to the integration of social robotics and neural visuomotor learning for humanoid robots.