Robotic skill learning has been increasingly studied but the demonstration collections are more challenging compared to collecting images/videos in computer vision and texts in natural language processing. This paper presents a skill learning paradigm by using intuitive teleoperation devices to generate high-quality human demonstrations efficiently for robotic skill learning in a data-driven manner. By using a reliable teleoperation interface, the da Vinci Research Kit (dVRK) master, a system called dVRK-Simulator-for-Demonstration (dS4D) is proposed in this paper. Various manipulation tasks show the system's effectiveness and advantages in efficiency compared to other interfaces. Using the collected data for policy learning has been investigated, which verifies the initial feasibility. We believe the proposed paradigm can facilitate robot learning driven by high-quality demonstrations and efficiency while generating them.
This paper proposes an interactive navigation framework by using large language and vision-language models, allowing robots to navigate in environments with traversable obstacles. We utilize the large language model (GPT-3.5) and the open-set Vision-language Model (Grounding DINO) to create an action-aware costmap to perform effective path planning without fine-tuning. With the large models, we can achieve an end-to-end system from textual instructions like "Can you pass through the curtains to deliver medicines to me?", to bounding boxes (e.g., curtains) with action-aware attributes. They can be used to segment LiDAR point clouds into two parts: traversable and untraversable parts, and then an action-aware costmap is constructed for generating a feasible path. The pre-trained large models have great generalization ability and do not require additional annotated data for training, allowing fast deployment in the interactive navigation tasks. We choose to use multiple traversable objects such as curtains and grasses for verification by instructing the robot to traverse them. Besides, traversing curtains in a medical scenario was tested. All experimental results demonstrated the proposed framework's effectiveness and adaptability to diverse environments.
Needle picking is a challenging surgical task in robot-assisted surgery due to the characteristics of small slender shapes of needles, needles' variations in shapes and sizes, and demands for millimeter-level control. Prior works, heavily relying on the prior of needles (e.g., geometric models), are hard to scale to unseen needles' variations. In addition, visual tracking errors can not be minimized online using their approaches. In this paper, we propose an end-to-end deep visual learning framework for needle-picking tasks where both visual and control components can be learned jointly online. Our proposed framework integrates a state-of-the-art reinforcement learning framework, Dreamer, with behavior cloning (BC). Besides, two novel techniques, i.e., Virtual Clutch and Dynamic Spotlight Adaptation (DSA), are introduced to our end-to-end visual controller for needle-picking tasks. We conducted extensive experiments in simulation to evaluate the performance, robustness, variation adaptation, and effectiveness of individual components of our method. Our approach, trained by 8k demonstration timesteps and 140k online policy timesteps, can achieve a remarkable success rate of 80%, a new state-of-the-art with end-to-end vision-based surgical robot learning for delicate operations tasks. Furthermore, our method effectively demonstrated its superiority in generalization to unseen dynamic scenarios with needle variations and image disturbance, highlighting its robustness and versatility. Codes and videos are available at https://sites.google.com/view/dreamerbc.
Projected Inverse Dynamics Control (PIDC) is commonly used in robots subject to contact, especially in quadrupedal systems. Many methods based on such dynamics have been developed for quadrupedal locomotion tasks, and only a few works studied simple interactions between the robot and environment, such as pressing an E-stop button. To facilitate the interaction requiring exact force control for safety, we propose a novel interaction force control scheme for underactuated quadrupedal systems relying on projection techniques and Quadratic Programming (QP). This algorithm allows the robot to apply a desired interaction force to the environment without using force sensors while satisfying physical constraints and inducing minimal base motion. Unlike previous projection-based methods, the QP design uses two selection matrices in its hierarchical structure, facilitating the decoupling between force and motion control. The proposed algorithm is verified with a quadrupedal robot in a high-fidelity simulator. Compared to the QP designs without the strategy of using two selection matrices and the PIDC method for contact force control, our method provided more accurate contact force tracking performance with minimal base movement, paving the way to approach the exact interaction force control for underactuated quadrupedal systems.
Learning high-performance deep neural networks for dynamic modeling of high Degree-Of-Freedom (DOF) robots remains challenging due to the sampling complexity. Typical unknown system disturbance caused by unmodeled dynamics (such as internal compliance, cables) further exacerbates the problem. In this paper, a novel framework characterized by both high data efficiency and disturbance-adapting capability is proposed to address the problem of modeling gravitational dynamics using deep nets in feedforward gravity compensation control for high-DOF master manipulators with unknown disturbance. In particular, Feedforward Deep Neural Networks (FDNNs) are learned from both prior knowledge of an existing analytical model and observation of the robot system by Knowledge Distillation (KD). Through extensive experiments in high-DOF master manipulators with significant disturbance, we show that our method surpasses a standard Learning-from-Scratch (LfS) approach in terms of data efficiency and disturbance adaptation. Our initial feasibility study has demonstrated the potential of outperforming the analytical teacher model as the training data increases.
Falling cat problem is well-known where cats show their super aerial reorientation capability and can land safely. For their robotic counterparts, a similar falling quadruped robot problem, has not been fully addressed, although achieving safe landing as the cats has been increasingly investigated. Unlike imposing the burden on landing control, we approach to safe landing of falling quadruped robots by effective flight phase control. Different from existing work like swinging legs and attaching reaction wheels or simple tails, we propose to deploy a 3-DoF morphable inertial tail on a medium-size quadruped robot. In the flight phase, the tail with its maximum length can self-right the body orientation in 3D effectively; before touch-down, the tail length can be retracted to about 1/4 of its maximum for impressing the tail's side-effect on landing. To enable aerial reorientation for safe landing in the quadruped robots, we design a control architecture, which has been verified in a high-fidelity physics simulation environment with different initial conditions. Experimental results on a customized flight-phase test platform with comparable inertial properties are provided and show the tail's effectiveness on 3D body reorientation and its fast retractability before touch-down. An initial falling quadruped robot experiment is shown, where the robot Unitree A1 with the 3-DoF tail can land safely subject to non-negligible initial body angles.
Trajectory optimization has been used extensively in robotic systems. In particular, Differential Dynamic Programming (DDP) has performed well as an off-line planner or an online nonlinear model predictive control solver, with a lower computational cost compared with other general-purpose nonlinear programming solvers. However, standard DDP cannot handle any constraints or perform reasonable initialization of a state trajectory. In this paper, we propose a hybrid constrained DDP variant with a multiple-shooting framework. The main technical contributions are twofold: 1) In addition to inheriting the simplicity of the initialization in multiple shooting, a two-stage framework is developed to deal with state and control inequality constraints robustly without loss of the linear feedback term of DDP. Such a hybrid strategy offers a fast convergence of constraint satisfaction. 2) An improved globalization strategy is proposed to exploit the coupled effects between line-searching and regularization, which is able to enhance the numerical robustness of DDP-like approaches. Our approach is tested on three constrained trajectory optimization problems with nonlinear inequality constraints and outperforms the commonly-used collocation and shooting methods in terms of runtime and constraint satisfaction.