He obtained his Ph.D. (Dr. sc.) degree in Dynamic Systems and Control from ETH Zurich under the supervision of Raffaello D’Andrea in 2013. Before, he received a B.Sc. degree in General Engineering Science in 2005, a M.Sc. degree (Dipl.-Ing.) in Electrical Engineering in 2007, and an MBA degree in Technology Management in 2007, all from Hamburg University of Technology. In 2007, Sebastian was a research scholar at University of California at Berkeley.
Control Machine learning Networked systems Distributed Intelligence Intelligent physical systems Robotics
Machine Learning in Planning and Control of Robot Motion Workshop at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (iROS), pages: , , Machine Learning in Planning and Control of Robot Motion Workshop, October 2015 (conference)
This paper proposes an automatic controller tuning framework based on linear optimal control combined with Bayesian optimization. With this framework, an initial set of controller gains is automatically improved according to a pre-defined performance objective evaluated from experimental data. The underlying Bayesian optimization algorithm is Entropy Search, which represents the latent objective as a Gaussian process and constructs an explicit belief over the location of the objective minimum. This is used to maximize the information gain from each experimental evaluation. Thus, this framework shall yield improved controllers with fewer evaluations compared to alternative approaches. A seven-degree-of-freedom robot arm balancing an inverted pole is used as the experimental demonstrator. Preliminary results of a low-dimensional tuning problem highlight the method’s potential for automatic controller tuning on robotic platforms.
In Proceedings of the American Control Conference, July 2015 (inproceedings)
This paper presents an LMI-based synthesis procedure for distributed event-based state estimation. Multiple agents observe and control a dynamic process by sporadically exchanging data over a broadcast network according to an event-based protocol. In previous work , the synthesis of event-based state estimators is based on a centralized design. In that case three different types of communication are required: event-based communication of measurements, periodic reset of all estimates to their joint average, and communication of inputs. The proposed synthesis problem eliminates the communication of inputs as well as the periodic resets (under favorable circumstances) by accounting explicitly for the distributed structure of the control system.
In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, May 2015 (inproceedings)
An event-based communication framework for remote operation of a robot via a bandwidth-limited network is proposed. The robot sends state and environment estimation data to the operator, and the operator transmits updated control commands or policies to the robot. Event-based communication protocols are designed to ensure that data is transmitted only when required: the robot sends new estimation data only if this yields a significant information gain at the operator, and the operator transmits an updated control policy only if this comes with a significant improvement in control performance. The developed framework is modular and can be used with any standard estimation and control algorithms. Simulation results of a robotic arm highlight its potential for an efficient use of limited communication resources, for example, in disaster response scenarios such as the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
An exploded power plant, collapsed buildings after an earthquake, a burning vehicle loaded with hazardous goods – all of these are dangerous situations for human emergency responders. What if we could send robots instead of humans? Researchers at the Autonomous Motion Department work on fundamental principles required to build intelligent robots which one day can help us in dangerous situations. A key requirement for making this happen is that robots must be enabled to learn.
In Robotics: Science and Systems, 2015 (inproceedings)
The Gaussian Filter (GF) is one of the most widely used filtering algorithms; instances are the Extended Kalman Filter, the Unscented Kalman Filter and the Divided Difference Filter. GFs represent the belief of the current state by a Gaussian with the mean being an affine function of the measurement. We show that this representation can be too restrictive to accurately capture the dependencies in systems with nonlinear observation models, and we investigate how the GF can be generalized to alleviate this problem. To this end we view the GF from a variational-inference perspective, and analyze how restrictions on the form of the belief can be relaxed while maintaining simplicity and efficiency. This analysis provides a basis for generalizations of the GF. We propose one such generalization which coincides with a GF using a virtual measurement, obtained by applying a nonlinear function to the actual measurement. Numerical experiments show that the proposed Feature Gaussian Filter (FGF) can have a substantial
performance advantage over the standard GF for systems with nonlinear observation models.
In Proceedings of the 53rd IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, Los Angeles, CA, 2014 (inproceedings)
An approach for distributed and event-based state estimation that was proposed in previous work  is analyzed and extended to practical networked systems in this paper. Multiple sensor-actuator-agents observe a dynamic process, sporadically exchange their measurements over a broadcast network according to an event-based protocol, and estimate the process state from the received data. The event-based approach was shown in  to mimic a centralized Luenberger observer up to guaranteed bounds, under the assumption of identical estimates on all agents. This assumption, however, is unrealistic (it is violated by a single packet drop or slight numerical inaccuracy) and removed herein. By means of a simulation example, it is shown that non-identical estimates can actually destabilize the overall system. To achieve stability, the event-based communication scheme is supplemented by periodic (but infrequent) exchange of the agentsâ?? estimates and reset to their joint average. When the local estimates are used for feedback control, the stability guarantee for the estimation problem extends to the event-based control system.
Learning robot controllers by minimizing a black-box objective cost using Bayesian optimization (BO) can be time-consuming and challenging. It is very often the case that some roll-outs result in failure behaviors, causing premature experiment detention. In such cases, the designer is forced to decide on heuristic cost penalties because the acquired data is often scarce, or not comparable with that of the stable policies. To overcome this, we propose a Bayesian model that captures exactly what we know about the cost of unstable controllers prior to data collection: Nothing, except that it should be a somewhat large number. The resulting Bayesian model, approximated with a Gaussian process, predicts high cost values in regions where failures are likely to occur. In this way, the model guides the BO exploration toward regions of stability. We demonstrate the benefits of the proposed model in several illustrative and statistical synthetic benchmarks, and also in experiments on a real robotic platform. In addition, we propose and experimentally validate a new BO method to account for unknown constraints. Such method is an extension of Max-Value Entropy Search, a recent information-theoretic method, to solve unconstrained global optimization problems.
Our goal is to understand the principles of Perception, Action and Learning in autonomous systems that successfully interact with complex environments and to use this understanding to design future systems