Building an Ecosystem for Research on (Artificial) Touch Sensing

Roberto Calandra

Workshop @IEEE World Haptics Conference - 10 July 2023

Learning, Adaptive Systems, and Robotics (LASR) Lab

State of the Art in Robotics

What are we missing?

  • Optimization
  • Modeling dynamical systems
  • Reinforcement Learning
  • Control and planning
  • Dexterous manipulation
  • Locomotion
  • Hardware design
  • Touch Processing
  • Applications

Learning, Adaptive Systems, and Robotics (LASR) Lab

Machine Learning

Robotics

Touch
Sensing

Hardware

Software

In this talk

The Importance of Touch

Touch Sensing is Hard

  • Interdisciplinary field which requires vertical integration. From hardware design to touch processing; From robot control to applications.
  • Many ad-hoc solutions and little re-use of existing components
    (i.e., We keep reinventing the wheel over and over)
  • High entrance bar for new researchers and practitioners
  • How can we lower the entrance bar?
  • How can we improve reproducibility?
  • How can we accelerate research by re-using existing components?

Standardization, and the creation of an ecosystem of tools

Grand Vision

+ Applications

+ Community

Hardware

DIGIT

Lambeta, M.; Chou, P.-W.; Tian, S.; Yang, B.; Maloon, B.; Most, V. R.; Stroud, D.; Santos, R.; Byagowi, A.; Kammerer, G.; Jayaraman, D. & Calandra, R.
DIGIT: A Novel Design for a Low-Cost Compact High-Resolution Tactile Sensor with Application to In-Hand Manipulation
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), 2020, 5, 3838-3845

Examples of DIGIT Measurements

Lambeta, M.; Chou, P.-W.; Tian, S.; Yang, B.; Maloon, B.; Most, V. R.; Stroud, D.; Santos, R.; Byagowi, A.; Kammerer, G.; Jayaraman, D. & Calandra, R.
DIGIT: A Novel Design for a Low-Cost Compact High-Resolution Tactile Sensor with Application to In-Hand Manipulation
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), 2020, 5, 3838-3845

Comparison

BioTac

DIGIT

~15,000 $

Cost

~15 $*

Resolution

29
taxels

307,200
taxels

Mounted on multi-finger hands

Open-source

1000x
Higher resolution

1000x
Cheaper

* component cost for 1000 units, not including labor

DIGIT Commercialization

  • Replicated in 20+ universities

  • Yet, it can still be challenging to manufacture a sensor without mechanical/electrical experience

  • Partnership with GelSight Inc. to commercialize DIGIT

  • Most widespread tactile sensor in robotics!

    • Part of Mitsubishi Electric RAISE (Robotics as an Intelligent Services Ecosystem)

OmniTact

Padmanabha, A.; Ebert, F.; Tian, S.; Calandra, R.; Finn, C.; Levine, S.
OmniTact: A Multi-Directional High-Resolution Touch Sensor
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) , 2020

Touch Processing

Creating a New Science of Touch Processing

Some of the open questions:

  • What are good features for touch?
  • Do we need sensor standardization?
    • What representation do we want/need for touch?
    • What sensorial information do we even want/need for touch?
  • What are the useful structures in computational models for touch?
  • What are the useful metrics to characterize touch?
  • How can we quantify the human psychophysics of touch?
  • What are the different tasks that can benefit from touch?
  • What are meaningful benchmarks for touch processing?

Very limited literature about computational processing of touch sensing

PyTouch: A Machine Learning Library
for Touch Processing

Goal: Create the equivalent of OpenCV for Touch

Lambeta, M.; Xu, H.; Xu, J.; Chou, P.-W.; Wang, S.; Darrell, T. & Calandra, R.
PyTouch: A Machine Learning Library for Touch Processing
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2021,
Online: https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.12791

Learning from Multiple Sensors Improve
Performance (Touch Detection Task)

Lambeta, M.; Xu, H.; Xu, J.; Chou, P.-W.; Wang, S.; Darrell, T. & Calandra, R.
PyTouch: A Machine Learning Library for Touch Processing
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2021,
Online: https://arxiv.org/abs/2105.12791

Learning Re-usable Visio-Tactile Representations

Kerr, J.; Huang, H.; Wilcox, A.; Hoque, R.; Ichnowski, J.; Calandra, R. & Goldberg, K.
Self-Supervised Visuo-Tactile Pretraining to Locate and Follow Garment Features
Accepted to RSS 2023, Online: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2209.13042

Applications

Some Touch Sensing Applications

Predicting Grasp Stability
[Calandra et al. 2017]

Learning how to (Re)Grasp
[Calandra et al. 2018]

Active Tactile Exploration
[Yi at al. 2016]

3D Reconstruction from Vision and Touch
[Smith et al. 2020; Smith et al. 2021]

Identify Objects from Touch

[Lin et al. 2019]

Learning to Play Piano from Touch
[Xu at al. 2022]

Lambeta, M.; Chou, P.-W.; Tian, S.; Yang, B.; Maloon, B.; Most, V. R.; Stroud, D.; Santos, R.; Byagowi, A.; Kammerer, G.; Jayaraman, D. & Calandra, R.
DIGIT: A Novel Design for a Low-Cost Compact High-Resolution Tactile Sensor with Application to In-Hand Manipulation
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), 2020, 5, 3838-3845

Achieving Human-level Manipulation with Robots

Do we really need Touch?

Qi, H.; Kumar, A.; Calandra, R.; Ma, Y. & Malik J.
In-Hand Object Rotation via Rapid Motor Adaptation
Conference on Robot Learning (CORL), 2022, https://arxiv.org/abs/2210.04887

To Conclude

Human Collaborators

Slack Channel

1st Workshop on Touch Processing

15/16 December 2023 @ NeurIPS
New Orleans, United States

We are Hiring

  • Post-docs
  • PhD Students
  • Robot Lab Manager

Overview

  • Touch is a key sensor modality for humans and robots
  • Presented our ecosystem for research in tactile sensing aimed at simplifying integration and enable to perceive, understand, and interact through touch:
    • Hardware
    • Simulation
    • Touch Processing
  • Towards the long-term goal of making touch sensing practical and more accessible (both in research and in the real-world)
  • Touch sensing is at the verge of a "digital revolution" that will make it ubiquitous and enable new applications

Thank you!

DIGIT

TACTO

PyTouch

Workshop IEEE World Haptics Conference 2023

By Roberto Calandra

Workshop IEEE World Haptics Conference 2023

[IEEE World Haptics Conference- 26 May 2023] Touch is a crucial sensor modality in both humans and robots. Recent advances in tactile sensing hardware have resulted -- for the first time -- in the availability of mass-produced, high-resolution, inexpensive, and reliable tactile sensors. In this talk, I will argue for the importance of creating a new computational field of "Touch processing" dedicated to the processing and understanding of touch, similarly to what computer vision is for vision. This new field will present significant challenges both in terms of research and engineering. To start addressing some of these challenges, I will introduce our open-source ecosystem dedicated to touch sensing research. Finally, I will present some applications of touch in robotics and discuss other future applications.

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