Farhi, Elad I., Indelman, Vadim

Inference and decision making under uncertainty are key processes in every autonomous system and numerous robotic problems. In recent years, the similarities between inference and decision making triggered much work, from developing unified computational frameworks to pondering about the duality between the two. In spite of these efforts, inference and control, as well as inference and belief space planning (BSP) are still treated as two separate processes. In this paper we propose a paradigm shift, a novel approach which deviates from conventional Bayesian inference and utilizes the similarities between inference and BSP. We make the key observation that inference can be efficiently updated using predictions made during the decision making stage, even in light of inconsistent data association between the two. We developed a two staged process that implements our novel approach and updates inference using calculations from the precursory planning phase. Using autonomous navigation in an unknown environment along with iSAM2 efficient methodologies as a test case, we benchmarked our novel approach against standard Bayesian inference, both with synthetic and real-world data (KITTI dataset). Results indicate that not only our approach improves running time by at least a factor of two while providing the same estimation accuracy, but it also alleviates the computational burden of state dimensionality and loop closures.

Kopitkov, Dmitry, Indelman, Vadim

Fast covariance calculation is required both for SLAM (e.g.~in order to solve data association) and for evaluating the information-theoretic term for different candidate actions in belief space planning (BSP). In this paper we make two primary contributions. First, we develop a novel general-purpose incremental covariance update technique, which efficiently recovers specific covariance entries after any change in the inference problem, such as introduction of new observations/variables or re-linearization of the state vector. Our approach is shown to recover them faster than other state-of-the-art methods. Second, we present a computationally efficient approach for BSP in high-dimensional state spaces, leveraging our incremental covariance update method. State of the art BSP approaches perform belief propagation for each candidate action and then evaluate an objective function that typically includes an information-theoretic term, such as entropy or information gain. Yet, candidate actions often have similar parts (e.g. common trajectory parts), which are however evaluated separately for each candidate. Moreover, calculating the information-theoretic term involves a costly determinant computation of the entire information (covariance) matrix which is O(n^3) with n being dimension of the state or costly Schur complement operations if only marginal posterior covariance of certain variables is of interest. Our approach, rAMDL-Tree, extends our previous BSP method rAMDL, by exploiting incremental covariance calculation and performing calculation re-use between common parts of non-myopic candidate actions, such that these parts are evaluated only once, in contrast to existing approaches.

He, Ruijie, Brunskill, Emma, Roy, Nicholas

Deciding how to act in partially observable environments remains an active area of research. Identifying good sequences of decisions is particularly challenging when good control performance requires planning multiple steps into the future in domains with many states. Towards addressing this challenge, we present an online, forward-search algorithm called the Posterior Belief Distribution (PBD). PBD leverages a novel method for calculating the posterior distribution over beliefs that result after a sequence of actions is taken, given the set of observation sequences that could be received during this process. This method allows us to efficiently evaluate the expected reward of a sequence of primitive actions, which we refer to as macro-actions. We present a formal analysis of our approach, and examine its performance on two very large simulation experiments: scientific exploration and a target monitoring domain. We also demonstrate our algorithm being used to control a real robotic helicopter in a target monitoring experiment, which suggests that our approach has practical potential for planning in real-world, large partially observable domains where a multi-step lookahead is required to achieve good performance.

Sztyglic, Ori, Indelman, Vadim

In this paper, we consider online planning in partially observable domains. Solving the corresponding POMDP problem is a very challenging task, particularly in an online setting. Our key contribution is a novel algorithmic approach, Simplified Information Theoretic Belief Space Planning (SITH-BSP), which aims to speed-up POMDP planning considering belief-dependent rewards, without compromising on the solution's accuracy. We do so by mathematically relating the simplified elements of the problem to the corresponding counterparts of the original problem. Specifically, we focus on belief simplification and use it to formulate bounds on the corresponding original belief-dependent rewards. These bounds in turn are used to perform branch pruning over the belief tree, in the process of calculating the optimal policy. We further introduce the notion of adaptive simplification, while re-using calculations between different simplification levels and exploit it to prune, at each level in the belief tree, all branches but one. Therefore, our approach is guaranteed to find the optimal solution of the original problem but with substantial speedup. As a second key contribution, we derive novel analytical bounds for differential entropy, considering a sampling-based belief representation, which we believe are of interest on their own. We validate our approach in simulation using these bounds and where simplification corresponds to reducing the number of samples, exhibiting a significant computational speedup while yielding the optimal solution.

He, R., Brunskill, E., Roy, N.