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Spring 2017 GRASP Seminar: Stefan Schaal, Max-Planck-Institute for Intelligent Systems and University of Southern California, “Perception, Action, Learning, and Associative Skill Memories”

April 7, 2017 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm



Autonomous robot systems have to make perceptual and control decisions at every moment of time, and have to learn and adapt to improve the system’s performance. High dimensional continuous state-action spaces still pose significant scaling problems for learning algorithms to find (approximately) optimal solutions, and appropriate task descriptions or cost functions require a large amount of human guidance. In order to address autonomous skillful movement generation in complex robot and task scenarios, we have been working on a variety of sub problems to facilitate robust task achievement. Among these topics are general representations for movement in form of movement primitives, trajectory-based reinforcement learning with path integral reinforcement learning, and inverse reinforcement learning to extract the “intent” of observed behavior. However, this “action centric” view of skill acquisition needs to be extended with a stronger perceptual component, as in the end the entire perception-action learning loop could be considered the key element to address, rather than isolated components of this loop. In some tentative initial research, we have been exploring Associative Skill Memories, i.e., the simple idea to start memorizing all sensory events and their statistics together with each movement skill. This concepts opens a wide spectrum of adding predictive, corrective, and switching behaviors in motor skills, and may create an interesting foundation to automatically generate the graphs underlying complex sequential motor skills. 


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Stefan Schaal is Professor of Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California, and a Founding Director of the Max-Planck-Insitute for Intelligent Systems in Tuebingen, Germany. He is also an Invited Researcher at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratory in Japan, where he held an appointment as Head of the Computational Learning Group during an international ERATO project, the Kawato Dynamic Brain Project (ERATO/JST). Before joining USC, Dr. Schaal was a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, an Invited Researcher at the ATR Human Information Processing Research Laboratories in Japan, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and at the Department of Kinesiology of the Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Schaal’s research interests include topics of statistical and machine learning, neural networks, computational neuroscience, functional brain imaging, nonlinear dynamics, nonlinear control theory, and biomimetic robotics. He applies his research to problems of artificial and biological motor control and motor learning, focusing on both theoretical investigations and experiments with human subjects and anthropomorphic robot equipment.

Dr. Schaal has co-authored over 300 papers in refereed journals and conferences. He is a co-founder of the “IEEE/RAS International Conference and Humanoid Robotics”, and a co-founder of “Robotics Science and Systems”, a highly selective new conference featuring the best work in robotics every year. Dr. Schaal served as Program Chair at these conferences and he was the Program Chair of “Simulated and Adaptive Behavior” (SAB 2004) and the “IEEE/RAS International Conference on Robotics and Automation” (ICRA 2008), the largest robotics conference in the world. Dr. Schaal is has also been an Area Chair at “Neural Information Processing Systems” (NIPS) and served as Program Committee Member of the “International Conference on Machine Learning” (ICML). Dr. Schaal serves on the editorial board of the journals “Neural Networks”, “International Journal of Humanoid Robotics”, and “Frontiers in Neurorobotics”. Dr. Schaal is a member of the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Society For Neuroscience, the Society for Neural Control of Movement, the IEEE, and AAAS.


April 7, 2017
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
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