Incremental learning, clustering and hierarchy formation of whole body motion patterns using adaptive Hidden Markov Chains

Dana Kulić, Wataru Takano, Yoshihiko Nakamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

158 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes a novel approach for autonomous and incremental learning of motion pattern primitives by observation of human motion. Human motion patterns are abstracted into a dynamic stochastic model, which can be used for both subsequent motion recognition and generation, analogous to the mirror neuron hypothesis in primates. The model size is adaptable based on the discrimination requirements in the associated region of the current knowledge base. A new algorithm for sequentially training the Markov chains is developed, to reduce the computation cost during model adaptation. As new motion patterns are observed, they are incrementally grouped together using hierarchical agglomerative clustering based on their relative distance in the model space. The clustering algorithm forms a tree structure, with specialized motions at the tree leaves, and generalized motions closer to the root. The generated tree structure will depend on the type of training data provided, so that the most specialized motions will be those for which the most training has been received. Tests with motion capture data for a variety of motion primitives demonstrate the efficacy of the algorithm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-784
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Robotics Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive robotics
  • Computer vision
  • Gesture
  • Human-centred and life-like robotics
  • Humanoid robots
  • Learning and adaptive systems
  • Posture
  • Recognition
  • Sensing and perception
  • Social spaces and facial expressions

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