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Learning table tennis with a Mixture of Motor Primitives

Katharina Mülling; Jens Kober; Jan Peters
In: 10th IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots. IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots (Humanoids-2010), December 6-8, Nashville, TN, USA, Pages 411-416, IEEE, 2010.


Table tennis is a sufficiently complex motor task for studying complete skill learning systems. It consists of several elementary motions and requires fast movements, accurate control, and online adaptation. To represent the elementary movements needed for robot table tennis, we rely on dynamic systems motor primitives (DMP). While such DMPs have been successfully used for learning a variety of simple motor tasks, they only represent single elementary actions. In order to select and generalize among different striking movements, we present a new approach, called Mixture of Motor Primitives that uses a gating network to activate appropriate motor primitives. The resulting policy enables us to select among the appropriate motor primitives as well as to generalize between them. In order to obtain a fully learned robot table tennis setup, we also address the problem of predicting the necessary context information, i.e., the hitting point in time and space where we want to hit the ball. We show that the resulting setup was capable of playing rudimentary table tennis using an anthropomorphic robot arm.

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