Neural Modular Control for Embodied Question Answering Artificial Intelligence

We present a modular approach for learning policies for navigation over long planning horizons from language input. Our hierarchical policy operates at multiple timescales, where the higher-level master policy proposes subgoals to be executed by specialized sub-policies. Our choice of subgoals is compositional and semantic, i.e. they can be sequentially combined in arbitrary orderings, and assume human-interpretable descriptions (e.g. 'exit room', 'find kitchen', 'find refrigerator', etc.). We use imitation learning to warm-start policies at each level of the hierarchy, dramatically increasing sample efficiency, followed by reinforcement learning. Independent reinforcement learning at each level of hierarchy enables sub-policies to adapt to consequences of their actions and recover from errors. Subsequent joint hierarchical training enables the master policy to adapt to the sub-policies.

Visual Semantic Navigation using Scene Priors Artificial Intelligence

Figure 1: Our goal is to use scene priors to improve navigation in unseen scenes and towards novel objects. The most likely locations are shown with the orange box. How do humans navigate to target objects in novel scenes? Do we use the semantic/functional priors we have built over years to efficiently search and navigate? For example, to search for mugs, we search cabinets near the coffee machine and for fruits we try the fridge. In this work, we focus on incorporating semantic priors in the task of semantic navigation. We propose to use Graph Convolutional Networks for incorporating the prior knowledge into a deep reinforcement learning framework. The agent uses the features from the knowledge graph to predict the actions. For evaluation, we use the AI2-THOR framework. Our experiments show how semantic knowledge improves performance significantly. More importantly, we show improvement in generalization to unseen scenes and/or objects.

DIViS: Domain Invariant Visual Servoing for Collision-Free Goal Reaching Artificial Intelligence

Robots should understand both semantics and physics to be functional in the real world. While robot platforms provide means for interacting with the physical world they cannot autonomously acquire object-level semantics without needing human. In this paper, we investigate how to minimize human effort and intervention to teach robots perform real world tasks that incorporate semantics. We study this question in the context of visual servoing of mobile robots and propose DIViS, a Domain Invariant policy learning approach for collision free Visual Servoing. DIViS incorporates high level semantics from previously collected static human-labeled datasets and learns collision free servoing entirely in simulation and without any real robot data. However, DIViS can directly be deployed on a real robot and is capable of servoing to the user-specified object categories while avoiding collisions in the real world. DIViS is not constrained to be queried by the final view of goal but rather is robust to servo to image goals taken from initial robot view with high occlusions without this impairing its ability to maintain a collision free path. We show the generalization capability of DIViS on real mobile robots in more than 90 real world test scenarios with various unseen object goals in unstructured environments. DIViS is compared to prior approaches via real world experiments and rigorous tests in simulation. For supplementary videos, see: \href{}{}

Learning Exploration Policies for Navigation Artificial Intelligence

Numerous past works have tackled the problem of task-driven navigation. But, how to effectively explore a new environment to enable a variety of downstream tasks has received much less attention. In this work, we study how agents can autonomously explore realistic and complex 3D environments without the context of task-rewards. We propose a learning-based approach and investigate different policy architectures, reward functions, and training paradigms. We find that use of policies with spatial memory that are bootstrapped with imitation learning and finally finetuned with coverage rewards derived purely from on-board sensors can be effective at exploring novel environments. We show that our learned exploration policies can explore better than classical approaches based on geometry alone and generic learning-based exploration techniques. Finally, we also show how such task-agnostic exploration can be used for downstream tasks. Imagine your first day at a new workplace. If you are like most people, the first task you set for yourself is to become familiar with the office so that the next day when you have to attend meetings and perform tasks, you can navigate efficiently and seamlessly. To achieve that goal, you explore your office without the task context of target locations you have to reach and build a generic understanding of space. This step of task-independent exploration is quite critical yet often ignored in current approaches for navigation. When it comes to navigation, currently there are two paradigms: (a) geometric reconstruction and path-planning based approaches (Hartley & Zisserman, 2003; Thrun et al., 2005; LaValle, 2006), and (b) learning-based approaches (Mirowski et al., 2017; Gupta et al., 2017; Savinov et al., 2018; Zhu et al., 2017).

Combining Optimal Control and Learning for Visual Navigation in Novel Environments Artificial Intelligence

Model-based control is a popular paradigm for robot navigation because it can leverage a known dynamics model to efficiently plan robust robot trajectories. However, it is challenging to use model-based methods in settings where the environment is a priori unknown and can only be observed partially through on-board sensors on the robot. In this work, we address this short-coming by coupling model-based control with learning-based perception. The learning-based perception module produces a series of waypoints that guide the robot to the goal via a collision-free path. These waypoints are used by a model-based planner to generate a smooth and dynamically feasible trajectory that is executed on the physical system using feedback control. Our experiments in simulated real-world cluttered environments and on an actual ground vehicle demonstrate that the proposed approach can reach goal locations more reliably and efficiently in novel, previously-unknown environments as compared to a purely end-to-end learning-based alternative. Our approach is successfully able to exhibit goal-driven behavior without relying on detailed explicit 3D maps of the environment, works well with low frame rates, and generalizes well from simulation to the real world. Videos describing our approach and experiments are available on the project website.