In surgery, the application of appropriate force levels is critical for the success and safety of a given procedure. While many studies are focused on measuring in situ forces, little attention has been devoted to relating these observed forces to surgical techniques. Answering questions like "Can certain changes to a surgical technique result in lower forces and increased safety margins?" could lead to improved surgical practice, and importantly, patient outcomes. However, such studies would require a large number of trials and professional surgeons, which is generally impractical to arrange. Instead, we show how robots can learn several variations of a surgical technique from a smaller number of surgical demonstrations and interpolate learnt behaviour via a parameterised skill model. This enables a large number of trials to be performed by a robotic system and the analysis of surgical techniques and their downstream effects on tissue. Here, we introduce a parameterised model of the elliptical excision skill and apply a Bayesian optimisation scheme to optimise the excision behaviour with respect to expert ratings, as well as individual characteristics of excision forces. Results show that the proposed framework can successfully align the generated robot behaviour with subjects across varying levels of proficiency in terms of excision forces.
The ability to anticipate pedestrian motion changes is a critical capability for autonomous vehicles. In urban environments, pedestrians may enter the road area and create a high risk for driving, and it is important to identify these cases. Typical predictors use the trajectory history to predict future motion, however in cases of motion initiation, motion in the trajectory may only be clearly visible after a delay, which can result in the pedestrian has entered the road area before an accurate prediction can be made. Appearance data includes useful information such as changes of gait, which are early indicators of motion changes, and can inform trajectory prediction. This work presents a comparative evaluation of trajectory-only and appearance-based methods for pedestrian prediction, and introduces a new dataset experiment for prediction using appearance. We create two trajectory and image datasets based on the combination of image and trajectory sequences from the popular NuScenes dataset, and examine prediction of trajectories using observed appearance to influence futures. This shows some advantages over trajectory prediction alone, although problems with the dataset prevent advantages of appearance-based models from being shown. We describe methods for improving the dataset and experiment to allow benefits of appearance-based models to be captured.
Interactive Task Learning (ITL) concerns learning about unforeseen domain concepts via natural interactions with human users. The learner faces a number of significant constraints: learning should be online, incremental and few-shot, as it is expected to perform tangible belief updates right after novel words denoting unforeseen concepts are introduced. In this work, we explore a challenging symbol grounding task--discriminating among object classes that look very similar--within the constraints imposed by ITL. We demonstrate empirically that more data-efficient grounding results from exploiting the truth-conditions of the teacher's generic statements (e.g., "Xs have attribute Z.") and their implicatures in context (e.g., as an answer to "How are Xs and Ys different?", one infers Y lacks attribute Z).
* Accepted to the 15th International Conference on Computational
Semantics (IWCS 2023)
Accurate prediction is important for operating an autonomous vehicle in interactive scenarios. Previous interactive predictors have used closest-mode evaluations, which test if one of a set of predictions covers the ground-truth, but not if additional unlikely predictions are made. The presence of unlikely predictions can interfere with planning, by indicating conflict with the ego plan when it is not likely to occur. Closest-mode evaluations are not sufficient for showing a predictor is useful, an effective predictor also needs to accurately estimate mode probabilities, and to be evaluated using probabilistic measures. These two evaluation approaches, eg. predicted-mode RMS and minADE/FDE, are analogous to precision and recall in binary classification, and there is a challenging trade-off between prediction strategies for each. We present DiPA, a method for producing diverse predictions while also capturing accurate probabilistic estimates. DiPA uses a flexible representation that captures interactions in widely varying road topologies, and uses a novel training regime for a Gaussian Mixture Model that supports diversity of predicted modes, along with accurate spatial distribution and mode probability estimates. DiPA achieves state-of-the-art performance on INTERACTION and NGSIM, and improves over a baseline (MFP) when both closest-mode and probabilistic evaluations are used at the same time.
Testing black-box perceptual-control systems in simulation faces two difficulties. Firstly, perceptual inputs in simulation lack the fidelity of real-world sensor inputs. Secondly, for a reasonably accurate perception system, encountering a rare failure trajectory may require running infeasibly many simulations. This paper combines perception error models -- surrogates for a sensor-based detection system -- with state-dependent adaptive importance sampling. This allows us to efficiently assess the rare failure probabilities for real-world perceptual control systems within simulation. Our experiments with an autonomous braking system equipped with an RGB obstacle-detector show that our method can calculate accurate failure probabilities with an inexpensive number of simulations. Further, we show how choice of safety metric can influence the process of learning proposal distributions capable of reliably sampling high-probability failures.
Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMPs) offer great versatility for encoding, generating and adapting complex end-effector trajectories. DMPs are also very well suited to learning manipulation skills from human demonstration. However, the reactive nature of DMPs restricts their applicability for tool use and object manipulation tasks involving non-holonomic constraints, such as scalpel cutting or catheter steering. In this work, we extend the Cartesian space DMP formulation by adding a coupling term that enforces a pre-defined set of non-holonomic constraints. We obtain the closed-form expression for the constraint forcing term using the Udwadia-Kalaba method. This approach offers a clean and practical solution for guaranteed constraint satisfaction at run-time. Further, the proposed analytical form of the constraint forcing term enables efficient trajectory optimization subject to constraints. We demonstrate the usefulness of this approach by showing how we can learn robotic cutting skills from human demonstration.
Achieving safe and robust autonomy is the key bottleneck on the path towards broader adoption of autonomous vehicles technology. This motivates going beyond extrinsic metrics such as miles between disengagement, and calls for approaches that embody safety by design. In this paper, we address some aspects of this challenge, with emphasis on issues of motion planning and prediction. We do this through description of novel approaches taken to solving selected sub-problems within an autonomous driving stack, in the process introducing the design philosophy being adopted within Five. This includes safe-by-design planning, interpretable as well as verifiable prediction, and modelling of perception errors to enable effective sim-to-real and real-to-sim transfer within the testing pipeline of a realistic autonomous system.
* AI Communications special issue on Multi-agent Systems Research in
Quadruped robots are usually equipped with additional arms for manipulation, negatively impacting price and weight. On the other hand, the requirements of legged locomotion mean that the legs of such robots often possess the needed torque and precision to perform manipulation. In this paper, we present a novel design for a small-scale quadruped robot equipped with two leg-mounted manipulators inspired by crustacean chelipeds and knuckle-walker forelimbs. By making use of the actuators already present in the legs, we can achieve manipulation using only 3 additional motors per limb. The design enables the use of small and inexpensive actuators relative to the leg motors, further reducing cost and weight. The moment of inertia impact on the leg is small thanks to an integrated cable/pulley system. As we show in a suite of tele-operation experiments, the robot is capable of performing single- and dual-limb manipulation, as well as transitioning between manipulation modes. The proposed design performs similarly to an additional arm while weighing and costing 5 times less per manipulator and enabling the completion of tasks requiring 2 manipulators.
* 6 pages, 10 figures, accepted to the 2022 IEEE/RSJ International
Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2022)
As autonomous systems are becoming part of our daily lives, ensuring their trustworthiness is crucial. There are a number of techniques for demonstrating trustworthiness. Common to all these techniques is the need to articulate specifications. In this paper, we take a broad view of specification, concentrating on top-level requirements including but not limited to functionality, safety, security and other non-functional properties. The main contribution of this article is a set of high-level intellectual challenges for the autonomous systems community related to specifying for trustworthiness. We also describe unique specification challenges concerning a number of application domains for autonomous systems.