Collaborating Authors


AllenAct: A Framework for Embodied AI Research Artificial Intelligence

The domain of Embodied AI, in which agents learn to complete tasks through interaction with their environment from egocentric observations, has experienced substantial growth with the advent of deep reinforcement learning and increased interest from the computer vision, NLP, and robotics communities. This growth has been facilitated by the creation of a large number of simulated environments (such as AI2-THOR, Habitat and CARLA), tasks (like point navigation, instruction following, and embodied question answering), and associated leaderboards. While this diversity has been beneficial and organic, it has also fragmented the community: a huge amount of effort is required to do something as simple as taking a model trained in one environment and testing it in another. This discourages good science. We introduce AllenAct, a modular and flexible learning framework designed with a focus on the unique requirements of Embodied AI research. AllenAct provides first-class support for a growing collection of embodied environments, tasks and algorithms, provides reproductions of state-of-the-art models and includes extensive documentation, tutorials, start-up code, and pre-trained models. We hope that our framework makes Embodied AI more accessible and encourages new researchers to join this exciting area. The framework can be accessed at:

From Robotic Process Automation to Intelligent Process Automation: Emerging Trends Artificial Intelligence

In this survey, we study how recent advances in machine intelligence are disrupting the world of business processes. Over the last decade, there has been steady progress towards the automation of business processes under the umbrella of ``robotic process automation'' (RPA). However, we are currently at an inflection point in this evolution, as a new paradigm called ``Intelligent Process Automation'' (IPA) emerges, bringing machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to bear in order to improve business process outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to provide a survey of this emerging theme and identify key open research challenges at the intersection of AI and business processes. We hope that this emerging theme will spark engaging conversations at the RPA Forum.

Fast Adaptation via Policy-Dynamics Value Functions Artificial Intelligence

Standard RL algorithms assume fixed environment dynamics and require a significant amount of interaction to adapt to new environments. We introduce Policy-Dynamics Value Functions (PD-VF), a novel approach for rapidly adapting to dynamics different from those previously seen in training. PD-VF explicitly estimates the cumulative reward in a space of policies and environments. An ensemble of conventional RL policies is used to gather experience on training environments, from which embeddings of both policies and environments can be learned. Then, a value function conditioned on both embeddings is trained. At test time, a few actions are sufficient to infer the environment embedding, enabling a policy to be selected by maximizing the learned value function (which requires no additional environment interaction). We show that our method can rapidly adapt to new dynamics on a set of MuJoCo domains. Code available at

Modeling Human Driving Behavior through Generative Adversarial Imitation Learning Artificial Intelligence

Imitation learning is an approach for generating intelligent behavior when the cost function is unknown or difficult to specify. Building upon work in inverse reinforcement learning (IRL), Generative Adversarial Imitation Learning (GAIL) aims to provide effective imitation even for problems with large or continuous state and action spaces. Driver modeling is one example of a problem where the state and action spaces are continuous. Human driving behavior is characterized by non-linearity and stochasticity, and the underlying cost function is unknown. As a result, learning from human driving demonstrations is a promising approach for generating human-like driving behavior. This article describes the use of GAIL for learning-based driver modeling. Because driver modeling is inherently a multi-agent problem, where the interaction between agents needs to be modeled, this paper describes a parameter-sharing extension of GAIL called PS-GAIL to tackle multi-agent driver modeling. In addition, GAIL is domain agnostic, making it difficult to encode specific knowledge relevant to driving in the learning process. This paper describes Reward Augmented Imitation Learning (RAIL), which modifies the reward signal to provide domain-specific knowledge to the agent. Finally, human demonstrations are dependent upon latent factors that may not be captured by GAIL. This paper describes Burn-InfoGAIL, which allows for disentanglement of latent variability in demonstrations. Imitation learning experiments are performed using NGSIM, a real-world highway driving dataset. Experiments show that these modifications to GAIL can successfully model highway driving behavior, accurately replicating human demonstrations and generating realistic, emergent behavior in the traffic flow arising from the interaction between driving agents.

From Demonstrations to Task-Space Specifications: Using Causal Analysis to Extract Rule Parameterization from Demonstrations Artificial Intelligence

Learning models of user behaviour is an important problem that is broadly applicable across many application domains requiring human-robot interaction. In this work, we show that it is possible to learn generative models for distinct user behavioural types, extracted from human demonstrations, by enforcing clustering of preferred task solutions within the latent space. We use these models to differentiate between user types and to find cases with overlapping solutions. Moreover, we can alter an initially guessed solution to satisfy the preferences that constitute a particular user type by backpropagating through the learned differentiable models. An advantage of structuring generative models in this way is that we can extract causal relationships between symbols that might form part of the user's specification of the task, as manifested in the demonstrations. We further parameterize these specifications through constraint optimization in order to find a safety envelope under which motion planning can be performed. We show that the proposed method is capable of correctly distinguishing between three user types, who differ in degrees of cautiousness in their motion, while performing the task of moving objects with a kinesthetically driven robot in a tabletop environment. Our method successfully identifies the correct type, within the specified time, in 99% [97.8 - 99.8] of the cases, which outperforms an IRL baseline. We also show that our proposed method correctly changes a default trajectory to one satisfying a particular user specification even with unseen objects. The resulting trajectory is shown to be directly implementable on a PR2 humanoid robot completing the same task.

AI Research Considerations for Human Existential Safety (ARCHES) Artificial Intelligence

Framed in positive terms, this report examines how technical AI research might be steered in a manner that is more attentive to humanity's long-term prospects for survival as a species. In negative terms, we ask what existential risks humanity might face from AI development in the next century, and by what principles contemporary technical research might be directed to address those risks. A key property of hypothetical AI technologies is introduced, called \emph{prepotence}, which is useful for delineating a variety of potential existential risks from artificial intelligence, even as AI paradigms might shift. A set of \auxref{dirtot} contemporary research \directions are then examined for their potential benefit to existential safety. Each research direction is explained with a scenario-driven motivation, and examples of existing work from which to build. The research directions present their own risks and benefits to society that could occur at various scales of impact, and in particular are not guaranteed to benefit existential safety if major developments in them are deployed without adequate forethought and oversight. As such, each direction is accompanied by a consideration of potentially negative side effects.

Simple Sensor Intentions for Exploration Artificial Intelligence

Modern reinforcement learning algorithms can learn solutions to increasingly difficult control problems while at the same time reduce the amount of prior knowledge needed for their application. One of the remaining challenges is the definition of reward schemes that appropriately facilitate exploration without biasing the solution in undesirable ways, and that can be implemented on real robotic systems without expensive instrumentation. In this paper we focus on a setting in which goal tasks are defined via simple sparse rewards, and exploration is facilitated via agent-internal auxiliary tasks. We introduce the idea of simple sensor intentions (SSIs) as a generic way to define auxiliary tasks. SSIs reduce the amount of prior knowledge that is required to define suitable rewards. They can further be computed directly from raw sensor streams and thus do not require expensive and possibly brittle state estimation on real systems. We demonstrate that a learning system based on these rewards can solve complex robotic tasks in simulation and in real world settings. In particular, we show that a real robotic arm can learn to grasp and lift and solve a Ball-in-a-Cup task from scratch, when only raw sensor streams are used for both controller input and in the auxiliary reward definition.

A Distributional View on Multi-Objective Policy Optimization Artificial Intelligence

Many real-world problems require trading off multiple competing objectives. However, these objectives are often in different units and/or scales, which can make it challenging for practitioners to express numerical preferences over objectives in their native units. In this paper we propose a novel algorithm for multi-objective reinforcement learning that enables setting desired preferences for objectives in a scale-invariant way. We propose to learn an action distribution for each objective, and we use supervised learning to fit a parametric policy to a combination of these distributions. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach on challenging high-dimensional real and simulated robotics tasks, and show that setting different preferences in our framework allows us to trace out the space of nondominated solutions.

Grounding Language in Play Artificial Intelligence

Natural language is perhaps the most versatile and intuitive way for humans to communicate tasks to a robot. Prior work on Learning from Play (LfP) [Lynch et al, 2019] provides a simple approach for learning a wide variety of robotic behaviors from general sensors. However, each task must be specified with a goal image---something that is not practical in open-world environments. In this work we present a simple and scalable way to condition policies on human language instead. We extend LfP by pairing short robot experiences from play with relevant human language after-the-fact. To make this efficient, we introduce multicontext imitation, which allows us to train a single agent to follow image or language goals, then use just language conditioning at test time. This reduces the cost of language pairing to less than 1% of collected robot experience, with the majority of control still learned via self-supervised imitation. At test time, a single agent trained in this manner can perform many different robotic manipulation skills in a row in a 3D environment, directly from images, and specified only with natural language (e.g. "open the pick up the press the green button..."). Finally, we introduce a simple technique that transfers knowledge from large unlabeled text corpora to robotic learning. We find that transfer significantly improves downstream robotic manipulation. It also allows our agent to follow thousands of novel instructions at test time in zero shot, in 16 different languages. See videos of our experiments at

Macro-Action-Based Deep Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning Artificial Intelligence

In real-world multi-robot systems, performing high-quality, collaborative behaviors requires robots to asynchronously reason about high-level action selection at varying time durations. Macro-Action Decentralized Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (MacDec-POMDPs) provide a general framework for asynchronous decision making under uncertainty in fully cooperative multi-agent tasks. However, multi-agent deep reinforcement learning methods have only been developed for (synchronous) primitive-action problems. This paper proposes two Deep Q-Network (DQN) based methods for learning decentralized and centralized macro-action-value functions with novel macro-action trajectory replay buffers introduced for each case. Evaluations on benchmark problems and a larger domain demonstrate the advantage of learning with macro-actions over primitive-actions and the scalability of our approaches.