Collaborating Authors


A Framework for Efficient Robotic Manipulation Artificial Intelligence

Data-efficient learning of manipulation policies from visual observations is an outstanding challenge for real-robot learning. While deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms have shown success learning policies from visual observations, they still require an impractical number of real-world data samples to learn effective policies. However, recent advances in unsupervised representation learning and data augmentation significantly improved the sample efficiency of training RL policies on common simulated benchmarks. Building on these advances, we present a Framework for Efficient Robotic Manipulation (FERM) that utilizes data augmentation and unsupervised learning to achieve extremely sample-efficient training of robotic manipulation policies with sparse rewards. We show that, given only 10 demonstrations, a single robotic arm can learn sparse-reward manipulation policies from pixels, such as reaching, picking, moving, pulling a large object, flipping a switch, and opening a drawer in just 15-50 minutes of real-world training time. We include videos, code, and additional information on the project website --

Emergent Complexity and Zero-shot Transfer via Unsupervised Environment Design Artificial Intelligence

A wide range of reinforcement learning (RL) problems -- including robustness, transfer learning, unsupervised RL, and emergent complexity -- require specifying a distribution of tasks or environments in which a policy will be trained. However, creating a useful distribution of environments is error prone, and takes a significant amount of developer time and effort. We propose Unsupervised Environment Design (UED) as an alternative paradigm, where developers provide environments with unknown parameters, and these parameters are used to automatically produce a distribution over valid, solvable environments. Existing approaches to automatically generating environments suffer from common failure modes: domain randomization cannot generate structure or adapt the difficulty of the environment to the agent's learning progress, and minimax adversarial training leads to worst-case environments that are often unsolvable. To generate structured, solvable environments for our protagonist agent, we introduce a second, antagonist agent that is allied with the environment-generating adversary. The adversary is motivated to generate environments which maximize regret, defined as the difference between the protagonist and antagonist agent's return. We call our technique Protagonist Antagonist Induced Regret Environment Design (PAIRED). Our experiments demonstrate that PAIRED produces a natural curriculum of increasingly complex environments, and PAIRED agents achieve higher zero-shot transfer performance when tested in highly novel environments.

A Review of Uncertainty Quantification in Deep Learning: Techniques, Applications and Challenges Artificial Intelligence

Uncertainty quantification (UQ) plays a pivotal role in reduction of uncertainties during both optimization and decision making processes. It can be applied to solve a variety of real-world applications in science and engineering. Bayesian approximation and ensemble learning techniques are two most widely-used UQ methods in the literature. In this regard, researchers have proposed different UQ methods and examined their performance in a variety of applications such as computer vision (e.g., self-driving cars and object detection), image processing (e.g., image restoration), medical image analysis (e.g., medical image classification and segmentation), natural language processing (e.g., text classification, social media texts and recidivism risk-scoring), bioinformatics, etc.This study reviews recent advances in UQ methods used in deep learning. Moreover, we also investigate the application of these methods in reinforcement learning (RL). Then, we outline a few important applications of UQ methods. Finally, we briefly highlight the fundamental research challenges faced by UQ methods and discuss the future research directions in this field.

Observation Space Matters: Benchmark and Optimization Algorithm Artificial Intelligence

Recent advances in deep reinforcement learning (deep RL) enable researchers to solve challenging control problems, from simulated environments to real-world robotic tasks. However, deep RL algorithms are known to be sensitive to the problem formulation, including observation spaces, action spaces, and reward functions. There exist numerous choices for observation spaces but they are often designed solely based on prior knowledge due to the lack of established principles. In this work, we conduct benchmark experiments to verify common design choices for observation spaces, such as Cartesian transformation, binary contact flags, a short history, or global positions. Then we propose a search algorithm to find the optimal observation spaces, which examines various candidate observation spaces and removes unnecessary observation channels with a Dropout-Permutation test. We demonstrate that our algorithm significantly improves learning speed compared to manually designed observation spaces. We also analyze the proposed algorithm by evaluating different hyperparameters.

LaND: Learning to Navigate from Disengagements Artificial Intelligence

Consistently testing autonomous mobile robots in real world scenarios is a necessary aspect of developing autonomous navigation systems. Each time the human safety monitor disengages the robot's autonomy system due to the robot performing an undesirable maneuver, the autonomy developers gain insight into how to improve the autonomy system. However, we believe that these disengagements not only show where the system fails, which is useful for troubleshooting, but also provide a direct learning signal by which the robot can learn to navigate. We present a reinforcement learning approach for learning to navigate from disengagements, or LaND. LaND learns a neural network model that predicts which actions lead to disengagements given the current sensory observation, and then at test time plans and executes actions that avoid disengagements. Our results demonstrate LaND can successfully learn to navigate in diverse, real world sidewalk environments, outperforming both imitation learning and reinforcement learning approaches. Videos, code, and other material are available on our website

Artificial Intelligence: Research Impact on Key Industries; the Upper-Rhine Artificial Intelligence Symposium (UR-AI 2020) Artificial Intelligence

The TriRhenaTech alliance presents a collection of accepted papers of the cancelled tri-national 'Upper-Rhine Artificial Inteeligence Symposium' planned for 13th May 2020 in Karlsruhe. The TriRhenaTech alliance is a network of universities in the Upper-Rhine Trinational Metropolitan Region comprising of the German universities of applied sciences in Furtwangen, Kaiserslautern, Karlsruhe, and Offenburg, the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University Loerrach, the French university network Alsace Tech (comprised of 14 'grandes \'ecoles' in the fields of engineering, architecture and management) and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland. The alliance's common goal is to reinforce the transfer of knowledge, research, and technology, as well as the cross-border mobility of students.

The Future of AI Part 1


It was reported that Venture Capital investments into AI related startups made a significant increase in 2018, jumping by 72% compared to 2017, with 466 startups funded from 533 in 2017. PWC moneytree report stated that that seed-stage deal activity in the US among AI-related companies rose to 28% in the fourth-quarter of 2018, compared to 24% in the three months prior, while expansion-stage deal activity jumped to 32%, from 23%. There will be an increasing international rivalry over the global leadership of AI. President Putin of Russia was quoted as saying that "the nation that leads in AI will be the ruler of the world". Billionaire Mark Cuban was reported in CNBC as stating that "the world's first trillionaire would be an AI entrepreneur".

Reinforcement Learning Approaches in Social Robotics Artificial Intelligence

In order to facilitate natural interaction, researchers in social robotics have focused on robots that can adapt to diverse conditions and to the different users with whom they interact. Recently, there has been great interest in the use of machine learning methods for adaptive social robots [48], [29], [106], [45], [49], [86]. Machine Learning (ML) algorithms can be categorized into three subfields [2]: supervised learning, unsupervised learning and reinforcement learning. In supervised learning, correct input/output pairs are available and the goal is to find a correct mapping from input to output space. In unsupervised learning, output data is not available and the goal is to find patterns in the input data. Reinforcement Learning (RL) [96] is a framework for decision-making problems in which an agent interacts through trial-and-error with its environment to discover an optimal behavior. The agent does not receive direct feedback of correctness, instead it receives scarce feedback about the actions it has taken in the past.

Human-in-the-Loop Methods for Data-Driven and Reinforcement Learning Systems Artificial Intelligence

Recent successes combine reinforcement learning algorithms and deep neural networks, despite reinforcement learning not being widely applied to robotics and real world scenarios. This can be attributed to the fact that current state-of-the-art, end-to-end reinforcement learning approaches still require thousands or millions of data samples to converge to a satisfactory policy and are subject to catastrophic failures during training. Conversely, in real world scenarios and after just a few data samples, humans are able to either provide demonstrations of the task, intervene to prevent catastrophic actions, or simply evaluate if the policy is performing correctly. This research investigates how to integrate these human interaction modalities to the reinforcement learning loop, increasing sample efficiency and enabling real-time reinforcement learning in robotics and real world scenarios. This novel theoretical foundation is called Cycle-of-Learning, a reference to how different human interaction modalities, namely, task demonstration, intervention, and evaluation, are cycled and combined to reinforcement learning algorithms. Results presented in this work show that the reward signal that is learned based upon human interaction accelerates the rate of learning of reinforcement learning algorithms and that learning from a combination of human demonstrations and interventions is faster and more sample efficient when compared to traditional supervised learning algorithms. Finally, Cycle-of-Learning develops an effective transition between policies learned using human demonstrations and interventions to reinforcement learning. The theoretical foundation developed by this research opens new research paths to human-agent teaming scenarios where autonomous agents are able to learn from human teammates and adapt to mission performance metrics in real-time and in real world scenarios.