Collaborating Authors


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".

Mobile Robot Path Planning in Dynamic Environments through Globally Guided Reinforcement Learning Artificial Intelligence

Path planning for mobile robots in large dynamic environments is a challenging problem, as the robots are required to efficiently reach their given goals while simultaneously avoiding potential conflicts with other robots or dynamic objects. In the presence of dynamic obstacles, traditional solutions usually employ re-planning strategies, which re-call a planning algorithm to search for an alternative path whenever the robot encounters a conflict. However, such re-planning strategies often cause unnecessary detours. To address this issue, we propose a learning-based technique that exploits environmental spatio-temporal information. Different from existing learning-based methods, we introduce a globally guided reinforcement learning approach (G2RL), which incorporates a novel reward structure that generalizes to arbitrary environments. We apply G2RL to solve the multi-robot path planning problem in a fully distributed reactive manner. We evaluate our method across different map types, obstacle densities, and the number of robots. Experimental results show that G2RL generalizes well, outperforming existing distributed methods, and performing very similarly to fully centralized state-of-the-art benchmarks.

Embodied Visual Navigation with Automatic Curriculum Learning in Real Environments Artificial Intelligence

We present NavACL, a method of automatic curriculum learning tailored to the navigation task. NavACL is simple to train and efficiently selects relevant tasks using geometric features. In our experiments, deep reinforcement learning agents trained using NavACL in collision-free environments significantly outperform state-of-the-art agents trained with uniform sampling -- the current standard. Furthermore, our agents are able to navigate through unknown cluttered indoor environments to semantically-specified targets using only RGB images. Collision avoidance policies and frozen feature networks support transfer to unseen real-world environments, without any modification or retraining requirements. We evaluate our policies in simulation, and in the real world on a ground robot and a quadrotor drone. Videos of real-world results are available in the supplementary material

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.

Intrinsically Motivated Goal Exploration Processes with Automatic Curriculum Learning Artificial Intelligence

Intrinsically motivated spontaneous exploration is a key enabler of autonomous lifelong learning in human children. It enables the discovery and acquisition of large repertoires of skills through self-generation, self-selection, self-ordering and self-experimentation of learning goals. We present an algorithmic approach called Intrinsically Motivated Goal Exploration Processes (IMGEP) to enable similar properties of autonomous or self-supervised learning in machines. The IMGEP algorithmic architecture relies on several principles: 1) self-generation of goals, generalized as fitness functions; 2) selection of goals based on intrinsic rewards; 3) exploration with incremental goal-parameterized policy search and exploitation of the gathered data with a batch learning algorithm; 4) systematic reuse of information acquired when targeting a goal for improving towards other goals. We present a particularly efficient form of IMGEP, called Modular Population-Based IMGEP, that uses a population-based policy and an object-centered modularity in goals and mutations. We provide several implementations of this architecture and demonstrate their ability to automatically generate a learning curriculum within several experimental setups including a real humanoid robot that can explore multiple spaces of goals with several hundred continuous dimensions. While no particular target goal is provided to the system, this curriculum allows the discovery of skills that act as stepping stone for learning more complex skills, e.g. nested tool use. We show that learning diverse spaces of goals with intrinsic motivations is more efficient for learning complex skills than only trying to directly learn these complex skills.

DECSTR: Learning Goal-Directed Abstract Behaviors using Pre-Verbal Spatial Predicates in Intrinsically Motivated Agents Artificial Intelligence

Intrinsically motivated agents freely explore their environment and set their own goals. Such goals are traditionally represented as specific states, but recent works introduced the use of language to facilitate abstraction. Language can, for example, represent goals as sets of general properties that surrounding objects should verify. However, language-conditioned agents are trained simultaneously to understand language and to act, which seems to contrast with how children learn: infants demonstrate goal-oriented behaviors and abstract spatial concepts very early in their development, before language mastery. Guided by these findings from developmental psychology, we introduce a high-level state representation based on natural semantic predicates that describe spatial relations between objects and that are known to be present early in infants. In a robotic manipulation environment, our DECSTR system explores this representation space by manipulating objects, and efficiently learns to achieve any reachable configuration within it. It does so by leveraging an object-centered modular architecture, a symmetry inductive bias, and a new form of automatic curriculum learning for goal selection and policy learning. As with children, language acquisition takes place in a second phase, independently from goal-oriented sensorimotor learning. This is done via a new goal generation module, conditioned on instructions describing expected transformations in object relations. We present ablations studies for each component and highlight several advantages of targeting abstract goals over specific ones. We further show that using this intermediate representation enables efficient language grounding by evaluating agents on sequences of language instructions and their logical combinations.

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.