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First published July 1 2016

Self-organized control of an tendon driven arm by differential extrinsic plasticity

Georg Martius, Rafael Hostettler, Alois Knoll, and Ralf Der

Abstract (Excerpt)

With the accelerated development of robot technologies, optimal control becomes one of the central themes of research. In traditional approaches, the controller, by its internal functionality, finds appropriate actions on the basis of the history of sensor values, guided by the goals, intentions, objectives, learning schemes, and so forth. The idea is that the controller controls the world---the body plus its environment---as reliably as possible. This paper focuses on new lines of self-organization for developmental robotics. We apply the recently developed differential extrinsic synaptic plasticity to a muscle-tendon driven arm-shoulder system from the Myorobotics toolkit. In the experiments, we observe a vast variety of self-organized behavior patterns: when left alone, the arm realizes pseudo-random sequences of different poses. By applying physical forces, the system can be entrained into definite motion patterns like wiping a table. Most interestingly, after attaching an object, the controller gets in a functional resonance with the object's internal dynamics, starting to shake spontaneously bottles half-filled with water or sensitively driving an attached pendulum into a circular mode. When attached to the crank of a wheel the neural system independently discovers how to rotate it. In this way, the robot discovers affordances of objects its body is interacting with.