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Movement templates for learning of hitting and batting

Jens Kober; Katharina Mülling; Oliver Kroemer; Christoph H. Lampert; Bernhard Schölkopf; Jan Peters
In: IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA-2010), May 3-7, Anchorage, Alaska, USA, Pages 853-858, IEEE, 2010.


Hitting and batting tasks, such as tennis forehands, ping-pong strokes, or baseball batting, depend on predictions where the ball can be intercepted and how it can properly be returned to the opponent. These predictions get more accurate over time, hence the behaviors need to be continuously modified. As a result, movement templates with a learned global shape need to be adapted during the execution so that the racket reaches a target position and velocity that will return the ball over to the other side of the net or court. It requires altering learned movements to hit a varying target with the necessary velocity at a specific instant in time. Such a task cannot be incorporated straightforwardly in most movement representations suitable for learning. For example, the standard formulation of the dynamical system based motor primitives (introduced by Ijspeert et al. [1]) does not satisfy this property despite their flexibility which has allowed learning tasks ranging from locomotion to kendama. In order to fulfill this requirement, we reformulate the Ijspeert framework to incorporate the possibility of specifying a desired hitting point and a desired hitting velocity while maintaining all advantages of the original formulation. We show that the proposed movement template formulation works well in two scenarios, i.e., for hitting a ball on a string with a table tennis racket at a specified velocity and for returning balls launched by a ball gun successfully over the net using forehand movements. All experiments were carried out on a Barrett WAM using a four camera vision system.

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