This work evaluates the impact of time step frequency and component scale on robotic manipulation simulation accuracy. Increasing the time step frequency for small-scale objects is shown to improve simulation accuracy. This simulation, demonstrating pre-assembly part picking for two object geometries, serves as a starting point for discussing how to improve Sim2Real transfer in robotic assembly processes.
We show that it is possible to learn an open-loop policy in simulation for the dynamic manipulation of a deformable linear object (DLO) -- e.g., a rope, wire, or cable -- that can be executed by a real robot without additional training. Our method is enabled by integrating an existing state-of-the-art DLO model (Discrete Elastic Rods) with MuJoCo, a robot simulator. We describe how this integration was done, check that validation results produced in simulation match what we expect from analysis of the physics, and apply policy optimization to train an open-loop policy from data collected only in simulation that uses a robot arm to fling a wire precisely between two obstacles. This policy achieves a success rate of 76.7% when executed by a real robot in hardware experiments without additional training on the real task.
This paper quantifies the impact of adverse environmental conditions on the detection of fiducial markers (i.e., artificial landmarks) by color cameras mounted on rotorcraft. We restrict our attention to square markers with a black-and-white pattern of grid cells that can be nested to allow detection at multiple scales. These markers have the potential to enhance the reliability of precision takeoff and landing at vertiports by flying vehicles in urban settings. Prior work has shown, in particular, that these markers can be detected with high precision (i.e., few false positives) and high recall (i.e., few false negatives). However, most of this prior work has been based on image sequences collected indoors with hand-held cameras. Our work is based on image sequences collected outdoors with cameras mounted on a quadrotor during semi-autonomous takeoff and landing operations under adverse environmental conditions that include variations in temperature, illumination, wind speed, humidity, visibility, and precipitation. In addition to precision and recall, performance measures include continuity, availability, robustness, resiliency, and coverage volume. We release both our dataset and the code we used for analysis to the public as open source.
This paper presents a comparative study of three modes for mobile robot localization based on visual SLAM using fiducial markers (i.e., square-shaped artificial landmarks with a black-and-white grid pattern): SLAM, SLAM with a prior map, and localization with a prior map. The reason for comparing the SLAM-based approaches leveraging fiducial markers is because previous work has shown their superior performance over feature-only methods, with less computational burden compared to methods that use both feature and marker detection without compromising the localization performance. The evaluation is conducted using indoor image sequences captured with a hand-held camera containing multiple fiducial markers in the environment. The performance metrics include absolute trajectory error and runtime for the optimization process per frame. In particular, for the last two modes (SLAM and localization with a prior map), we evaluate their performances by perturbing the quality of prior map to study the extent to which each mode is tolerant to such perturbations. Hardware experiments show consistent trajectory error levels across the three modes, with the localization mode exhibiting the shortest runtime among them. Yet, with map perturbations, SLAM with a prior map maintains performance, while localization mode degrades in both aspects.
This work proposes a solution for the problem of training physics informed networks under partial integro-differential equations. These equations require infinite or a large number of neural evaluations to construct a single residual for training. As a result, accurate evaluation may be impractical, and we show that naive approximations at replacing these integrals with unbiased estimates lead to biased loss functions and solutions. To overcome this bias, we investigate three types of solutions: the deterministic sampling approach, the double-sampling trick, and the delayed target method. We consider three classes of PDEs for benchmarking; one defining a Poisson problem with singular charges and weak solutions, another involving weak solutions on electro-magnetic fields and a Maxwell equation, and a third one defining a Smoluchowski coagulation problem. Our numerical results confirm the existence of the aforementioned bias in practice, and also show that our proposed delayed target approach can lead to accurate solutions with comparable quality to ones estimated with a large number of samples. Our implementation is open-source and available at https://github.com/ehsansaleh/btspinn.
We present a multi-robot task and motion planning method that, when applied to the rearrangement of objects by manipulators, produces solution times up to three orders of magnitude faster than existing methods. We achieve this improvement by decomposing the planning space into subspaces for independent manipulators, objects, and manipulators holding objects. We represent this decomposition with a hypergraph where vertices are substates and hyperarcs are transitions between substates. Existing methods use graph-based representations where vertices are full states and edges are transitions between states. Using the hypergraph reduces the size of the planning space-for multi-manipulator object rearrangement, the number of hypergraph vertices scales linearly with the number of either robots or objects, while the number of hyperarcs scales quadratically with the number of robots and linearly with the number of objects. In contrast, the number of vertices and edges in graph-based representations scale exponentially in the number of robots and objects. Additionally, the hypergraph provides a structure to reason over varying levels of (de)coupled spaces and transitions between them enabling a hybrid search of the planning space. We show that similar gains can be achieved for other multi-robot task and motion planning problems.
In this paper, we present a policy gradient method that avoids exploratory noise injection and performs policy search over the deterministic landscape. By avoiding noise injection all sources of estimation variance can be eliminated in systems with deterministic dynamics (up to the initial state distribution). Since deterministic policy regularization is impossible using traditional non-metric measures such as the KL divergence, we derive a Wasserstein-based quadratic model for our purposes. We state conditions on the system model under which it is possible to establish a monotonic policy improvement guarantee, propose a surrogate function for policy gradient estimation, and show that it is possible to compute exact advantage estimates if both the state transition model and the policy are deterministic. Finally, we describe two novel robotic control environments -- one with non-local rewards in the frequency domain and the other with a long horizon (8000 time-steps) -- for which our policy gradient method (TDPO) significantly outperforms existing methods (PPO, TRPO, DDPG, and TD3). Our implementation with all the experimental settings is available at https://github.com/ehsansaleh/code_tdpo
We present a method of extrinsic calibration for a system of multiple inertial measurement units (IMUs) that estimates the relative pose of each IMU on a rigid body using only measurements from the IMUs themselves, without the need to prescribe the trajectory. Our method is based on solving a nonlinear least-squares problem that penalizes inconsistency between measurements from pairs of IMUs. We validate our method with experiments both in simulation and in hardware. In particular, we show that it meets or exceeds the performance -- in terms of error, success rate, and computation time -- of an existing, state-of-the-art method that does not rely only on IMU measurements and instead requires the use of a camera and a fiducial marker. We also show that the performance of our method is largely insensitive to the choice of trajectory along which IMU measurements are collected.
Significant progress in robotics reveals new opportunities to advance manufacturing. Next-generation industrial automation will require both integration of distinct robotic technologies and their application to challenging industrial environments. This paper presents lessons from a collaborative assembly project between three academic research groups and an industry partner. The goal of the project is to develop a flexible, safe, and productive manufacturing cell for sub-centimeter precision assembly. Solving this problem in a high-mix, low-volume production line motivates multiple research thrusts in robotics. This work identifies new directions in collaborative robotics for industrial applications and offers insight toward strengthening collaborations between institutions in academia and industry on the development of new technologies.
This paper proposes a category-level 6D object pose and shape estimation approach iCaps, which allows tracking 6D poses of unseen objects in a category and estimating their 3D shapes. We develop a category-level auto-encoder network using depth images as input, where feature embeddings from the auto-encoder encode poses of objects in a category. The auto-encoder can be used in a particle filter framework to estimate and track 6D poses of objects in a category. By exploiting an implicit shape representation based on signed distance functions, we build a LatentNet to estimate a latent representation of the 3D shape given the estimated pose of an object. Then the estimated pose and shape can be used to update each other in an iterative way. Our category-level 6D object pose and shape estimation pipeline only requires 2D detection and segmentation for initialization. We evaluate our approach on a publicly available dataset and demonstrate its effectiveness. In particular, our method achieves comparably high accuracy on shape estimation.