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Learning Inverse Dynamics: A Comparison

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While it is well-known that model can enhance the control performance in terms of precision or energy efficiency, the practical application has often been limited by the complexities of manually obtaining sufficiently accurate models. In the past, learning has proven a viable alternative to using a combination of rigid-body dynamics and handcrafted approximations of nonlinearities. However, a major open question is what nonparametric learning method is suited best for learning dynamics? Traditionally, locally weighted projection regression (LWPR), has been the standard method as it is capable of online, real-time learning for very complex robots. However, while LWPR has had significant impact on learning in robotics, alternative nonparametric regression methods such as support vector regression (SVR) and Gaussian processes regression (GPR) offer interesting alternatives with fewer open parameters and potentially higher accuracy. In this paper, we evaluate these three alternatives for model learning. Our comparison consists out of the evaluation of learning quality for each regression method using original data from SARCOS robot arm, as well as the robot tracking performance employing learned models. The results show that GPR and SVR achieve a superior learning precision and can be applied for real-time control obtaining higher accuracy. However, for the online learning LWPR presents the better method due to its lower computational requirements.
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Learning Inverse Dynamics: a Comparison
Duy Nguyen-Tuong, Jan Peters, Matthias Seeger, Bernhard Sch¨olkopf
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
Spemannstraße 38, 72076 T¨ubingen - Germany
Abstract. While it is well-known that model can enhance the control
performance in terms of precision or energy efficiency, the practical appli-
cation has often been limited by the complexities of manually obtaining
sufficiently accurate models. In the past, learning has proven a viable al-
ternative to using a combination of rigid-body dynamics and handcrafted
approximations of nonlinearities. However, a major open question is what
nonparametric learning method is suited best for learning dynamics? Tra-
ditionally, locally weighted projection regression (LWPR), has been the
standard method as it is capable of online, real-time learning for very com-
plex robots. However, while LWPR has had significant impact on learning
in robotics, alternative nonparametric regression methods such as support
vector regression (SVR) and Gaussian processes regression (GPR) offer
interesting alternatives with fewer open parameters and potentially higher
accuracy. In this paper, we evaluate these three alternatives for model
learning. Our comparison consists out of the evaluation of learning qual-
ity for each regression method using original data from SARCOS robot
arm, as well as the robot tracking performance employing learned models.
The results show that GPR and SVR achieve a superior learning precision
and can be applied for real-time control obtaining higher accuracy. How-
ever, for the online learning LWPR presents the better method due to its
lower computational requirements.
1 Introduction
Model-based robot control, e.g., feedforward nonlinear control [1], exhibits many
advantages over traditional PID-control such as potentially higher tracking ac-
curacy, lower feedback gains, lower energy consumption etc. Within the context
of automatic robot control, this approach can be considered as an inverse prob-
lem, where the plant model, e.g, the dynamics model of a robot described by
rigid-body formulation, is used to predict the joint torques given the desired
trajectory (i.e., the joint positions, velocities, and accelerations), see, e.g., [1].
However, for many robot systems a sufficiently accurate plant model is hard to
achieve using the pure rigid-body formulation due to unmodeled nonlinearities
such as friction or actuator nonlinearities [2]. In such cases, the imprecise model
can lead to large tracking errors which can only be avoided using high-gain con-
trol or more accurate models. As high-gain control would turn the robot into a
danger for its environment, the latter is the preferable option. For this, one im-
portant alternative is the inference of inverse models from measured data using
regression techniques.
While this goal has been considered in the past [3, 4], given recent progress
in regression techniques and increased computing power for online computation,
Fig. 1: Anthropomor-
phic SARCOS master
robot arm.
it is time that we reevaluate this issue using state-of-
the-art methods. In this paper, we compare three differ-
ent nonparametric regression methods for learning the
dynamics model, i.e., the locally weighted projection
regression (LWPR) [5], the full Gaussian processes re-
gression (GPR) [6] and the ν-support vector regression
(ν-SVR) [7]. The approximation quality is evaluated us-
ing (i) simulation data and (ii) real data taken from a
7 degree-of-freedom (DoF) SARCOS master robot arm,
as shown in Figure 1. Furthermore, we will examine
the tracking performances of the robot using the learned
models in the setting of feedforward nonlinear control [1].
Our main focus during these evaluations is to an-
swer two questions: a) which of the presented methods
is suited best for our problem domain, and b) whether policies learned by support
vector machines and Gaussian process can work in a real-time control scenario.
In the following, we will describe the role of inverse dynamics in nonlinear,
feedforward robot control and, subsequently, the regression algorithms used for
model approximation. Afterwards, we will discuss the results of model learning
and how these can be used for control. Finally, we will show the performance
during a real-time tracking task explaining our real-time robot control setup.
2 Inverse Dynamics Models in Feedforward Control
In model-based control, the controller command is computed using apriori knowl-
edge about the system expressed in an inverse dynamics model [1, 8], which is
traditionally given in the rigid-body formulation [1]: M(q)¨q +F(q,˙q) = u,
where q,˙q,¨q are joint angles, velocities and accelerations of the robot. M(q)
denotes the inertia matrix and F(q,˙q) all internal forces, including Coriolis and
centripetal forces, gravity as well as unmodel-able nonlinearities.
The motor command u=uFF +uFB is the applied joint torques and consists
out of a feedforward component uFF and a feedback component uFB. The feed-
forward component predicts the torques required to follow a desired trajectory
given by desired joint angles qd, velocities ˙qdand accelerations ¨qd. If we have
a sufficiently accurate analytical model, we can compute the feedforward com-
ponent by uFF =M(qd)¨qd+F(qd,˙qd). The feedback component is required
to ensure that a tracking error cannot accumulate and destabilize the system.
Linear feedback controllers uFB =Kpe+Kv˙e, with e=qdqbeing tracking
error, are commonly used in the feedforward control setting, where the feedback
gains Kpand Kvare chosen such that they remain low for compliance while
sufficiently high for stability [1].
However, for many robot systems the dynamics model presented by rigid-
body equation as given is not sufficiently accurate, especially in case of unmod-
eled nonlinearities, complex friction and actuator dynamics [2]. This imprecise
model leads to a bad prediction of joint torques uFF which can result in poor
control performances or even damage the system. Thus, learning more precise
inverse dynamics models from measured data using regression methods poses
an interesting alternative. In this case, the feedforward component is generally
considered as a function of desired trajectories, hence, uFF =f(qd,˙qd,¨qd).
3 Nonparametric Regression Methods for Model Learning
Learning the feedforward function is a straightforward regression problem as
we can observe the trajectories resulting from our motor commands u. Thus,
we have to learn the mapping from inputs x= [qT,˙qT,¨qT]R3nto targets
y=uRn. With the learned function, the feedforward torque uFF can be
predicted for a query input point xd= [qT
d,˙qT
d,¨qT
d]. In the remainder of the
section, we discuss three nonparametric regression techniques used for learning
inverse dynamics models, i.e., the current standard method LWPR [5], ν-SVR [7]
and GPR [6].
3.1 Locally Weighted Projection Regression (LWPR)
In LWPR, the predicted value ˆyis given by a combination of Nindividually
weighted locally linear models normalized by the sum of all weights [2,5], Thus,
ˆy=PN
k=1 wk¯yk
PN
k=1 wk
,(1)
with ¯yk=¯xT
kˆ
θkand ¯xk= [(xck)T,1]T, where wkis the weight, ˆ
θkcontains
the regression parameter and ckis the center of the k-th linear model. For
the weight determination, a Gaussian kernel is often used: wk= exp(0.5(x
ck)TDk(xck)), where Dkis a positive definite distance matrix. During the
learning process, the main purpose is to adjust Dkand ˆ
θk, such that the errors
between predicted values and targets are minimal [5].
3.2 Gaussian Processes Regression (GPR)
GPR is performed using a linear model: y=f(x)+with f(x) = φ(x)Tw, where
wis the weight vector [6]. The linear computation is done after transforming
the input xwith a kernel function φ(), for which the Gaussian kernel, as given
in Section 3.1, can be taken. It is further assumed that the target value yis
corrupted by a noise with zero mean and variance σ2
n.
To make a prediction for a new input xthe outputs of all linear models are
averaged and additionally weighted by their posterior [6]. The predicted value
¯
f(x) and corresponding variance V(x) can be given as follow [6]
¯
f(x) = k
TK+σ2
nI1y=k
Tζ,
V(x) = k(x,x)k
TK+σ2
nI1k,(2)
where k=φ(x)TΣpΦ,k(x,x) = φ(x)TΣpφ(x) and K=ΦTΣpΦ. The
matrix Φdenotes an aggregation of columns φ(x) for all cases in the training
set and Σpthe variance of the weights.
nMSE Joint [i]
[%] 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
LWPR 3.9 1.6 2.1 3.1 1.7 2.1 3.1
GPR 0.7 0.2 0.1 0.5 0.1 0.4 0.6
ν-SVR 0.4 0.3 0.1 0.6 0.2 0.5 0.4
Table 1: Learning error in percent for each
DoF using simulation data.
nMSE Joint [i]
[%] 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
LWPR 1.7 2.1 2.0 0.5 2.5 2.4 0.7
GPR 0.5 0.3 0.1 0.1 1.5 1.2 0.2
ν-SVR 0.8 0.6 0.5 0.1 0.5 1.2 0.1
RBM 5.9 226.3 111.3 3.4 2.7 1.3 1.4
Table 2: Learning error in percent for each
DoF using real SARCOS data.
Joint [i] GPR ν-SVR LWPR
1 0.78 1.17 1.45
2 1.05 1.01 1.63
3 0.24 0.19 0.19
4 2.42 2.34 3.24
5 0.23 0.14 0.23
6 0.31 0.21 0.29
7 0.23 0.24 0.26
Table 3: Tracking error as nMSE
in percent for each DoF using test
trajectories.
3.3 ν-Support Vector Regression (ν-SVR)
For ν-SVR the predicted value f(x) for a query point xis given by [7]
f(x) = Xm
i=1 (α
iαi)k(xi,x) + b , (3)
with k(xi,x) = φ(xi)Tφ(x) and mdenotes the number of training points. The
transformation φ() of the input vector can also be done with an appropriate
kernel function as in the case of GPR. The quantities α
i,αiand bare determined
through an optimization procedure parameterized by C0 and ν0 [7]. The
parameter νimplies the width of the tube around the hyperplane (3) and C
denotes the regularization factor for training [7].
4 Evaluations on Data Sets & Application in Control
In this section, we compare the learning performance of LWPR, GPR and ν-
SVR using (i) simulation data and (ii) real SARCOS robot data. Generating
the simulation data, we use a model of the 7-DoF SARCOS master arm created
with the SL-software package [9].
4.1 Evaluation on Simulation Data
For the input data, a trajectory is generated such that it is sufficiently rich.
Subsequently, we control the robot arm tracking those trajectory in a closed-loop
control setting, where we sample the corresponding controller commands for the
target data, i.e., the joint torques. In so doing, a training set and a test set with
21 inputs and 7 targets are generated which consist of 14094 examples for training
and 5560 for testing. The training takes place for each DoF separately, employing
LWPR, GPR and ν-SVR. Table 1 gives the normalized mean squared error
(nMSE) in percent of the evaluation on the test set, where the normalized mean
squared error is defined as: nMSE = Mean squared error/Variance of target.
It can be seen that GPR and ν-SVR yield better model approximation com-
pared to LWPR, since GPR and ν-SVR are a global methods. A further ad-
vantage of these methods is that there are only some hyperparameters to be
determined, which makes the learning process more practical. However, the
main drawback is the computational cost. In general, the training time for GPR
and ν-SVR is about 2-time longer compared to LWPR. The advantage of LWPR
is the fast computation, since the model update is done locally. However, due to
many meta parameters which have to be set manually for the LWPR-training,
it is fairly tedious to find an optimal setting for those by trial-and-error.
4.2 Evaluation on Real Robot Data
The data is taken from the real anthropomorphic SARCOS master arm with 7
DoF, as shown in Figure 1. Here, we have 13622 examples for training and 5500
for testing. Table 2 shows the nMSE after learning with real robot data for each
DoF. Additionally, we also determine the nMSE of a linear regression using the
rigid-body robot model (RBM). The resulting error will indicate, how far the
analytical model can explain the data.
Compared to LWPR, GPR and ν-SVR provide better results for every DoF.
Considering the rigid-body model, the linear regression yields very large approx-
imation error for the 2. and 3. DoF. Apparently, for these DoF the nonlinearities
(e.g., hydraulic cables, complex friction) cannot be approximated well using just
the rigid-body functions. This example shows the difficulty using the analytical
model for control in practice, where the imprecise dynamics model will result in
poor control performance for real system, e.g., large tracking error.
4.3 Application to Control
Using the offline-learned models from Section 4.1, the SL-model of the SARCOS
robot arm [9] is controlled to accomplish a tracking task. For desired trajectories,
i.e., joint angles, velocities and accelerations, we generate test trajectories which
are similar to training trajectories, comparing the generalization ability of each
regression method. Table 3 gives the tracking error of each joint as nMSE for the
test trajectories. The Figure 2 shows the corresponding tracking performance
for the joint 1 and 2, other joints are similar. It’s necessary to emphasize that
the control task is done in real-time where the system is sampled with 480 Hz.
It can be seen that the tracking error of GPR and ν-SVR is only slightly
smaller than LWPR in spite of better learning accuracy. This is due to the
reason that in case of GPR and ν-SVR, the controller command ucan only
be updated at every 4th sampling step due to more involved calculations for
prediction, see Equations (2) and (3). In spite of those limitations, we are able
to control the robot arm in real-time achieving a competitive performance. For
LWPR, we are able to calculate the controller command for every sampling step,
since evaluation of the prediction values (1) is quite fast. Furthermore, the
results show that the learned models are able to generalized well in present of
unknown trajectories similar to training data.
0 1 2 3 4 5
−0.2
−0.15
−0.1
−0.05
0
0.05
0.1
1. Joint
time [s]
Amplitude [rad]
Desired
LWPR
GPR
ν−SVR
012345
−0.5
−0.4
−0.3
−0.2
−0.1
0
0.1
time [s]
Amplitude [rad]
2. Joint
Fig. 2: Tracking performance for joint 1and 2. Other joints are similar.
5 Conclusion
Our results indicate that GPR and ν-SVR can be made to work for control appli-
cations in real-time, and that it is easier to apply to learning problems achieving
a higher learning accuracy compared to LWPR. However, the computational
cost is prohibitively high for online learning. Our next step is to modify GPR
and ν-SVR, so that they can be used for an online regression and thus is capable
for real-time learning. Here, the problem of expensive computation has to be
overcome using other techniques, such as sparse or local models [10].
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This paper introduces a probably stable learning adaptive control framework with statistical learning. The proposed algorithm employs nonlinear function approximation with automatic growth of the learning network according to the nonlinearities and the working domain of the control system. The unknown function in the dynamical system is approximated by piecewise linear models using a nonparametric regression technique. Local models are allocated as necessary and their parameters are optimized on-line. Inspired by composite adaptive control methods, the proposed learning adaptive control algorithm uses both the tracking error and the estimation error to update the parameters. We first discuss statistical learning of nonlinear functions, and motivate our choice of the locally weighted learning framework. Second, we begin with a class of first order SISO systems for theoretical development of our learning adaptive control framework, and present a stability proof including a parameter projection method that is needed to avoid potential singularities during adaptation. Then, we generalize our adaptive controller to higher order SISO systems, and discuss further extension to MIMO problems. Finally, we evaluate our theoretical control framework in numerical simulations to illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed learning adaptive controller for rapid convergence and high accuracy of control.