Collaborating Authors


Flexible and Efficient Long-Range Planning Through Curious Exploration Artificial Intelligence

Identifying algorithms that flexibly and efficiently discover temporally-extended multi-phase plans is an essential step for the advancement of robotics and model-based reinforcement learning. The core problem of long-range planning is finding an efficient way to search through the tree of possible action sequences. Existing non-learned planning solutions from the Task and Motion Planning (TAMP) literature rely on the existence of logical descriptions for the effects and preconditions for actions. This constraint allows TAMP methods to efficiently reduce the tree search problem but limits their ability to generalize to unseen and complex physical environments. In contrast, deep reinforcement learning (DRL) methods use flexible neural-network-based function approximators to discover policies that generalize naturally to unseen circumstances. However, DRL methods struggle to handle the very sparse reward landscapes inherent to long-range multi-step planning situations. Here, we propose the Curious Sample Planner (CSP), which fuses elements of TAMP and DRL by combining a curiosity-guided sampling strategy with imitation learning to accelerate planning. We show that CSP can efficiently discover interesting and complex temporally-extended plans for solving a wide range of physically realistic 3D tasks. In contrast, standard planning and learning methods often fail to solve these tasks at all or do so only with a huge and highly variable number of training samples. We explore the use of a variety of curiosity metrics with CSP and analyze the types of solutions that CSP discovers. Finally, we show that CSP supports task transfer so that the exploration policies learned during experience with one task can help improve efficiency on related tasks.

Experimental Comparison of Global Motion Planning Algorithms for Wheeled Mobile Robots Artificial Intelligence

Planning smooth and energy-efficient motions for wheeled mobile robots is a central task for applications ranging from autonomous driving to service and intralogistic robotics. Over the past decades, a wide variety of motion planners, steer functions and path-improvement techniques have been proposed for such non-holonomic systems. With the objective of comparing this large assortment of state-of-the-art motion-planning techniques, we introduce a novel open-source motion-planning benchmark for wheeled mobile robots, whose scenarios resemble real-world applications (such as navigating warehouses, moving in cluttered cities or parking), and propose metrics for planning efficiency and path quality. Our benchmark is easy to use and extend, and thus allows practitioners and researchers to evaluate new motion-planning algorithms, scenarios and metrics easily. We use our benchmark to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of several common state-of-the-art motion planners and provide recommendations on when they should be used.

Piecewise linear regressions for approximating distance metrics Artificial Intelligence

This paper presents a data structure that summarizes distances between configurations across a robot configuration space, using a binary space partition whose cells contain parameters used for a locally linear approximation of the distance function. Querying the data structure is extremely fast, particularly when compared to the graph search required for querying Probabilistic Roadmaps, and memory requirements are promising. The paper explores the use of the data structure constructed for a single robot to provide a heuristic for challenging multi-robot motion planning problems. Potential applications also include the use of remote computation to analyze the space of robot motions, which then might be transmitted on-demand to robots with fewer computational resources.

3D Dynamic Scene Graphs: Actionable Spatial Perception with Places, Objects, and Humans Artificial Intelligence

We present a unified representation for actionable spatial perception: 3D Dynamic Scene Graphs. Scene graphs are directed graphs where nodes represent entities in the scene (e.g. objects, walls, rooms), and edges represent relations (e.g. inclusion, adjacency) among nodes. Dynamic scene graphs (DSGs) extend this notion to represent dynamic scenes with moving agents (e.g. humans, robots), and to include actionable information that supports planning and decision-making (e.g. spatio-temporal relations, topology at different levels of abstraction). Our second contribution is to provide the first fully automatic Spatial PerceptIon eNgine(SPIN) to build a DSG from visual-inertial data. We integrate state-of-the-art techniques for object and human detection and pose estimation, and we describe how to robustly infer object, robot, and human nodes in crowded scenes. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that reconciles visual-inertial SLAM and dense human mesh tracking. Moreover, we provide algorithms to obtain hierarchical representations of indoor environments (e.g. places, structures, rooms) and their relations. Our third contribution is to demonstrate the proposed spatial perception engine in a photo-realistic Unity-based simulator, where we assess its robustness and expressiveness. Finally, we discuss the implications of our proposal on modern robotics applications. 3D Dynamic Scene Graphs can have a profound impact on planning and decision-making, human-robot interaction, long-term autonomy, and scene prediction. A video abstract is available at

CES Liveblog Day 3: Smart Vibrator, Robot Arms, and More


Welcome to our CES 2020 liveblog! The WIRED crew is on the ground here in Las Vegas to touch, test, prod, and fondle all of the latest doodads, robot bartenders, underwater drones, and exoskeletons. This liveblog is the place where we'll report all of our findings. We'll have videos, photos, written dispatches, and since we're in the latter half of CES, we'll probably start to get a little goofy. We're on Pacific Standard Time here in Las Vegas, so expect updates to start rolling in around 11 am eastern, or 8 am out west.

A Configuration-Space Decomposition Scheme for Learning-based Collision Checking Machine Learning

A Configuration-Space Decomposition Scheme for Learning-based Collision Checking Yiheng Han 1, Wang Zhao 1, Jia Pan 2, Zipeng Y e 1, Ran Yi 1 and Y ong-Jin Liu 1† Abstract -- Motion planning for robots of high degrees-of- freedom (DOFs) is an important problem in robotics with sampling-based methods in configuration space C as one popular solution. Recently, machine learning methods have been introduced into sampling-based motion planning methods, which train a classifier to distinguish collision free subspace from in-collision subspace in C . In this paper, we propose a novel configuration space decomposition method and show two nice properties resulted from this decomposition. Using these two properties, we build a composite classifier that works compatibly with previous machine learning methods by using them as the elementary classifiers. Experimental results are presented, showing that our composite classifier outperforms state-of-the-art single-classifier methods by a large margin. A real application of motion planning in a multi-robot system in plant phenotyping using three UR5 robotic arms is also presented. I. INTRODUCTION Motion planning plays an important role in robotics, which finds a collision-free path to move a robot from a source to a target position.

Task-Motion Planning for Navigation in Belief Space Artificial Intelligence

Task-Motion Planning for Navigation in Belief Space Antony Thomas, Fulvio Mastrogiovanni, and Marco Baglietto Abstract We present an integrated Task-Motion Planning (TMP) framework for navigation in large-scale environment. Autonomous robots operating in real world complex scenarios require planning in the discrete (task) space and the continuous (motion) space. In knowledge intensive domains, on the one hand, a robot has to reason at the highest-level, for example the regions to navigate to; on the other hand, the feasibility of the respective navigation tasks have to be checked at the execution level. This presents a need for motion-planning-aware task planners. We discuss a probabilistically complete approach that leverages this task-motion interaction for navigating in indoor domains, returning a plan that is optimal at the task-level. Furthermore, our framework is intended for motion planning under motion and sensing uncertainty, which is formally known as belief space planning. The underlying methodology is validated with a simulated office environment in Gazebo. In addition, we discuss the limitations and provide suggestions for improvements and future work. 1 Introduction Autonomous robots operating in complex real world scenarios require different levels of planning to execute their tasks. High-level (task) planning helps break down a given set of tasks into a sequence of sub-tasks. Actual execution of each of these sub-tasks would require low-level control actions to generate appropriate robot motions. In fact, the dependency between logical and geometrical aspects is pervasive in both task planning and execution.

Task-assisted Motion Planning in Partially Observable Domains Artificial Intelligence

Antony Thomas and Sunny Amatya † and Fulvio Mastrogiovanni and Marco Baglietto Abstract -- We present an integrated T ask-Motion Planning framework for robot navigation in belief space. Autonomous robots operating in real world complex scenarios require planning in the discrete (task) space and the continuous (motion) space. T o this end, we propose a framework for integrating belief space reasoning within a hybrid task planner . The expressive power of PDDL combined with heuristic-driven semantic attachments performs the propagated and posterior belief estimates while planning. The underlying methodology for the development of the combined hybrid planner is discussed, providing suggestions for improvements and future work. I NTRODUCTION Autonomous robots operating in complex real world scenarios require different levels of planning to execute their tasks. High-level (task) planning helps break down a given set of tasks into a sequence of sub-tasks, actual execution of each of these sub-tasks would require low-level control actions to generate appropriate robot motions. In fact, the dependency between logical and geometrical aspects is pervasive in both task planning and execution. Hence, planning should be performed in the task-motion or the discrete-continuous space. In recent years, combining high-level task planning with low-level motion planning has been a subject of great interest among the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) community.

RL-RRT: Kinodynamic Motion Planning via Learning Reachability Estimators from RL Policies Artificial Intelligence

This paper addresses two challenges facing sampling-based kinodynamic motion planning: a way to identify good candidate states for local transitions and the subsequent computationally intractable steering between these candidate states. Through the combination of sampling-based planning, a Rapidly Exploring Randomized Tree (RRT) and an efficient kinodynamic motion planner through machine learning, we propose an efficient solution to long-range planning for kinodynamic motion planning. First, we use deep reinforcement learning to learn an obstacle-avoiding policy that maps a robot's sensor observations to actions, which is used as a local planner during planning and as a controller during execution. Second, we train a reachability estimator in a supervised manner, which predicts the RL policy's time to reach a state in the presence of obstacles. Lastly, we introduce RL-RRT that uses the RL policy as a local planner, and the reachability estimator as the distance function to bias tree-growth towards promising regions. We evaluate our method on three kinodynamic systems, including physical robot experiments. Results across all three robots tested indicate that RL-RRT outperforms state of the art kinodynamic planners in efficiency, and also provides a shorter path finish time than a steering function free method. The learned local planner policy and accompanying reachability estimator demonstrate transferability to the previously unseen experimental environments, making RL-RRT fast because the expensive computations are replaced with simple neural network inference. Video:

Robot arm uses bacteria in its fingers to "taste" its environment


By embedding engineered bacteria into the fingers of a robot arm, researchers have created a biohybrid bot that can "taste" -- and they think it could lead to a future in which robots are better equipped to respond to the world around them. For their study, which was published in the journal Science Robotics on Wednesday, a team from the University of California, Davis, and Carnegie Mellon University engineered E. coli bacteria to produce a fluorescent protein when it encountered the chemical IPTG. They then placed the engineered bacteria into wells built into a robot arm's flexible grippers. Finally, they covered the wells with a porous membrane that would keep the bacteria in place while letting liquids reach the cells. To test the system, the researchers had the arm reach into a water bath that sometimes contained IPTG.