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2020


Label Efficient Visual Abstractions for Autonomous Driving
Label Efficient Visual Abstractions for Autonomous Driving

Behl, A., Chitta, K., Prakash, A., Ohn-Bar, E., Geiger, A.

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, October 2020 (conference)

Abstract
It is well known that semantic segmentation can be used as an effective intermediate representation for learning driving policies. However, the task of street scene semantic segmentation requires expensive annotations. Furthermore, segmentation algorithms are often trained irrespective of the actual driving task, using auxiliary image-space loss functions which are not guaranteed to maximize driving metrics such as safety or distance traveled per intervention. In this work, we seek to quantify the impact of reducing segmentation annotation costs on learned behavior cloning agents. We analyze several segmentation-based intermediate representations. We use these visual abstractions to systematically study the trade-off between annotation efficiency and driving performance, ie, the types of classes labeled, the number of image samples used to learn the visual abstraction model, and their granularity (eg, object masks vs. 2D bounding boxes). Our analysis uncovers several practical insights into how segmentation-based visual abstractions can be exploited in a more label efficient manner. Surprisingly, we find that state-of-the-art driving performance can be achieved with orders of magnitude reduction in annotation cost. Beyond label efficiency, we find several additional training benefits when leveraging visual abstractions, such as a significant reduction in the variance of the learned policy when compared to state-of-the-art end-to-end driving models.

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pdf slides video Project Page [BibTex]

2020


pdf slides video Project Page [BibTex]


Actively Learning Gaussian Process Dynamics
Actively Learning Gaussian Process Dynamics

Buisson-Fenet, M., Solowjow, F., Trimpe, S.

2nd Annual Conference on Learning for Dynamics and Control, June 2020 (conference) Accepted

Abstract
Despite the availability of ever more data enabled through modern sensor and computer technology, it still remains an open problem to learn dynamical systems in a sample-efficient way. We propose active learning strategies that leverage information-theoretical properties arising naturally during Gaussian process regression, while respecting constraints on the sampling process imposed by the system dynamics. Sample points are selected in regions with high uncertainty, leading to exploratory behavior and data-efficient training of the model. All results are verified in an extensive numerical benchmark.

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ArXiv [BibTex]

ArXiv [BibTex]


Learning Constrained Dynamics with Gauss Principle adhering Gaussian Processes
Learning Constrained Dynamics with Gauss Principle adhering Gaussian Processes

Geist, A. R., Trimpe, S.

In 2nd Annual Conference on Learning for Dynamics and Control, June 2020 (inproceedings) Accepted

Abstract
The identification of the constrained dynamics of mechanical systems is often challenging. Learning methods promise to ease an analytical analysis, but require considerable amounts of data for training. We propose to combine insights from analytical mechanics with Gaussian process regression to improve the model's data efficiency and constraint integrity. The result is a Gaussian process model that incorporates a priori constraint knowledge such that its predictions adhere to Gauss' principle of least constraint. In return, predictions of the system's acceleration naturally respect potentially non-ideal (non-)holonomic equality constraints. As corollary results, our model enables to infer the acceleration of the unconstrained system from data of the constrained system and enables knowledge transfer between differing constraint configurations.

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Arxiv preprint [BibTex]

Arxiv preprint [BibTex]


Bayesian Optimization in Robot Learning - Automatic Controller Tuning and Sample-Efficient Methods
Bayesian Optimization in Robot Learning - Automatic Controller Tuning and Sample-Efficient Methods

Marco-Valle, A.

University of Tübingen, June 2020 (thesis)

Abstract
The problem of designing controllers to regulate dynamical systems has been studied by engineers during the past millennia. Ever since, suboptimal performance lingers in many closed loops as an unavoidable side effect of manually tuning the parameters of the controllers. Nowadays, industrial settings remain skeptic about data-driven methods that allow one to automatically learn controller parameters. In the context of robotics, machine learning (ML) keeps growing its influence on increasing autonomy and adaptability, for example to aid automating controller tuning. However, data-hungry ML methods, such as standard reinforcement learning, require a large number of experimental samples, prohibitive in robotics, as hardware can deteriorate and break. This brings about the following question: Can manual controller tuning, in robotics, be automated by using data-efficient machine learning techniques? In this thesis, we tackle the question above by exploring Bayesian optimization (BO), a data-efficient ML framework, to buffer the human effort and side effects of manual controller tuning, while retaining a low number of experimental samples. We focus this work in the context of robotic systems, providing thorough theoretical results that aim to increase data-efficiency, as well as demonstrations in real robots. Specifically, we present four main contributions. We first consider using BO to replace manual tuning in robotic platforms. To this end, we parametrize the design weights of a linear quadratic regulator (LQR) and learn its parameters using an information-efficient BO algorithm. Such algorithm uses Gaussian processes (GPs) to model the unknown performance objective. The GP model is used by BO to suggest controller parameters that are expected to increment the information about the optimal parameters, measured as a gain in entropy. The resulting “automatic LQR tuning” framework is demonstrated on two robotic platforms: A robot arm balancing an inverted pole and a humanoid robot performing a squatting task. In both cases, an existing controller is automatically improved in a handful of experiments without human intervention. BO compensates for data scarcity by means of the GP, which is a probabilistic model that encodes prior assumptions about the unknown performance objective. Usually, incorrect or non-informed assumptions have negative consequences, such as higher number of robot experiments, poor tuning performance or reduced sample-efficiency. The second to fourth contributions presented herein attempt to alleviate this issue. The second contribution proposes to include the robot simulator into the learning loop as an additional information source for automatic controller tuning. While doing a real robot experiment generally entails high associated costs (e.g., require preparation and take time), simulations are cheaper to obtain (e.g., they can be computed faster). However, because the simulator is an imperfect model of the robot, its information is biased and could have negative repercussions in the learning performance. To address this problem, we propose “simu-vs-real”, a principled multi-fidelity BO algorithm that trades off cheap, but inaccurate information from simulations with expensive and accurate physical experiments in a cost-effective manner. The resulting algorithm is demonstrated on a cart-pole system, where simulations and real experiments are alternated, thus sparing many real evaluations. The third contribution explores how to adequate the expressiveness of the probabilistic prior to the control problem at hand. To this end, the mathematical structure of LQR controllers is leveraged and embedded into the GP, by means of the kernel function. Specifically, we propose two different “LQR kernel” designs that retain the flexibility of Bayesian nonparametric learning. Simulated results indicate that the LQR kernel yields superior performance than non-informed kernel choices when used for controller learning with BO. Finally, the fourth contribution specifically addresses the problem of handling controller failures, which are typically unavoidable in practice while learning from data, specially if non-conservative solutions are expected. Although controller failures are generally problematic (e.g., the robot has to be emergency-stopped), they are also a rich information source about what should be avoided. We propose “failures-aware excursion search”, a novel algorithm for Bayesian optimization under black-box constraints, where failures are limited in number. Our results in numerical benchmarks indicate that by allowing a confined number of failures, better optima are revealed as compared with state-of-the-art methods. The first contribution of this thesis, “automatic LQR tuning”, lies among the first on applying BO to real robots. While it demonstrated automatic controller learning from few experimental samples, it also revealed several important challenges, such as the need of higher sample-efficiency, which opened relevant research directions that we addressed through several methodological contributions. Summarizing, we proposed “simu-vs-real”, a novel BO algorithm that includes the simulator as an additional information source, an “LQR kernel” design that learns faster than standard choices and “failures-aware excursion search”, a new BO algorithm for constrained black-box optimization problems, where the number of failures is limited.

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Repository (Universitätsbibliothek) - University of Tübingen PDF DOI [BibTex]


Learning Unsupervised Hierarchical Part Decomposition of 3D Objects from a Single RGB Image
Learning Unsupervised Hierarchical Part Decomposition of 3D Objects from a Single RGB Image

Paschalidou, D., Gool, L., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Humans perceive the 3D world as a set of distinct objects that are characterized by various low-level (geometry, reflectance) and high-level (connectivity, adjacency, symmetry) properties. Recent methods based on convolutional neural networks (CNNs) demonstrated impressive progress in 3D reconstruction, even when using a single 2D image as input. However, the majority of these methods focuses on recovering the local 3D geometry of an object without considering its part-based decomposition or relations between parts. We address this challenging problem by proposing a novel formulation that allows to jointly recover the geometry of a 3D object as a set of primitives as well as their latent hierarchical structure without part-level supervision. Our model recovers the higher level structural decomposition of various objects in the form of a binary tree of primitives, where simple parts are represented with fewer primitives and more complex parts are modeled with more components. Our experiments on the ShapeNet and D-FAUST datasets demonstrate that considering the organization of parts indeed facilitates reasoning about 3D geometry.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Poster Video 1 [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Poster Video 1 [BibTex]


Towards Unsupervised Learning of Generative Models for 3D Controllable Image Synthesis
Towards Unsupervised Learning of Generative Models for 3D Controllable Image Synthesis

Liao, Y., Schwarz, K., Mescheder, L., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
In recent years, Generative Adversarial Networks have achieved impressive results in photorealistic image synthesis. This progress nurtures hopes that one day the classical rendering pipeline can be replaced by efficient models that are learned directly from images. However, current image synthesis models operate in the 2D domain where disentangling 3D properties such as camera viewpoint or object pose is challenging. Furthermore, they lack an interpretable and controllable representation. Our key hypothesis is that the image generation process should be modeled in 3D space as the physical world surrounding us is intrinsically three-dimensional. We define the new task of 3D controllable image synthesis and propose an approach for solving it by reasoning both in 3D space and in the 2D image domain. We demonstrate that our model is able to disentangle latent 3D factors of simple multi-object scenes in an unsupervised fashion from raw images. Compared to pure 2D baselines, it allows for synthesizing scenes that are consistent wrt. changes in viewpoint or object pose. We further evaluate various 3D representations in terms of their usefulness for this challenging task.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides Poster [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides Poster [BibTex]


Exploring Data Aggregation in Policy Learning for Vision-based Urban Autonomous Driving
Exploring Data Aggregation in Policy Learning for Vision-based Urban Autonomous Driving

Prakash, A., Behl, A., Ohn-Bar, E., Chitta, K., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Data aggregation techniques can significantly improve vision-based policy learning within a training environment, e.g., learning to drive in a specific simulation condition. However, as on-policy data is sequentially sampled and added in an iterative manner, the policy can specialize and overfit to the training conditions. For real-world applications, it is useful for the learned policy to generalize to novel scenarios that differ from the training conditions. To improve policy learning while maintaining robustness when training end-to-end driving policies, we perform an extensive analysis of data aggregation techniques in the CARLA environment. We demonstrate how the majority of them have poor generalization performance, and develop a novel approach with empirically better generalization performance compared to existing techniques. Our two key ideas are (1) to sample critical states from the collected on-policy data based on the utility they provide to the learned policy in terms of driving behavior, and (2) to incorporate a replay buffer which progressively focuses on the high uncertainty regions of the policy's state distribution. We evaluate the proposed approach on the CARLA NoCrash benchmark, focusing on the most challenging driving scenarios with dense pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Our approach improves driving success rate by 16% over state-of-the-art, achieving 87% of the expert performance while also reducing the collision rate by an order of magnitude without the use of any additional modality, auxiliary tasks, architectural modifications or reward from the environment.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Video 1 [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Slides Video 1 [BibTex]


Learning Situational Driving
Learning Situational Driving

Ohn-Bar, E., Prakash, A., Behl, A., Chitta, K., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Human drivers have a remarkable ability to drive in diverse visual conditions and situations, e.g., from maneuvering in rainy, limited visibility conditions with no lane markings to turning in a busy intersection while yielding to pedestrians. In contrast, we find that state-of-the-art sensorimotor driving models struggle when encountering diverse settings with varying relationships between observation and action. To generalize when making decisions across diverse conditions, humans leverage multiple types of situation-specific reasoning and learning strategies. Motivated by this observation, we develop a framework for learning a situational driving policy that effectively captures reasoning under varying types of scenarios. Our key idea is to learn a mixture model with a set of policies that can capture multiple driving modes. We first optimize the mixture model through behavior cloning, and show it to result in significant gains in terms of driving performance in diverse conditions. We then refine the model by directly optimizing for the driving task itself, i.e., supervised with the navigation task reward. Our method is more scalable than methods assuming access to privileged information, e.g., perception labels, as it only assumes demonstration and reward-based supervision. We achieve over 98% success rate on the CARLA driving benchmark as well as state-of-the-art performance on a newly introduced generalization benchmark.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Slides [BibTex]


On Joint Estimation of Pose, Geometry and svBRDF from a Handheld Scanner
On Joint Estimation of Pose, Geometry and svBRDF from a Handheld Scanner

Schmitt, C., Donne, S., Riegler, G., Koltun, V., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
We propose a novel formulation for joint recovery of camera pose, object geometry and spatially-varying BRDF. The input to our approach is a sequence of RGB-D images captured by a mobile, hand-held scanner that actively illuminates the scene with point light sources. Compared to previous works that jointly estimate geometry and materials from a hand-held scanner, we formulate this problem using a single objective function that can be minimized using off-the-shelf gradient-based solvers. By integrating material clustering as a differentiable operation into the optimization process, we avoid pre-processing heuristics and demonstrate that our model is able to determine the correct number of specular materials independently. We provide a study on the importance of each component in our formulation and on the requirements of the initial geometry. We show that optimizing over the poses is crucial for accurately recovering fine details and that our approach naturally results in a semantically meaningful material segmentation.

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pdf Project Page Slides Video Poster [BibTex]

pdf Project Page Slides Video Poster [BibTex]


Differentiable Volumetric Rendering: Learning Implicit 3D Representations without 3D Supervision
Differentiable Volumetric Rendering: Learning Implicit 3D Representations without 3D Supervision

Niemeyer, M., Mescheder, L., Oechsle, M., Geiger, A.

In Proceedings IEEE Conf. on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020, 2020 (inproceedings)

Abstract
Learning-based 3D reconstruction methods have shown impressive results. However, most methods require 3D supervision which is often hard to obtain for real-world datasets. Recently, several works have proposed differentiable rendering techniques to train reconstruction models from RGB images. Unfortunately, these approaches are currently restricted to voxel- and mesh-based representations, suffering from discretization or low resolution. In this work, we propose a differentiable rendering formulation for implicit shape and texture representations. Implicit representations have recently gained popularity as they represent shape and texture continuously. Our key insight is that depth gradients can be derived analytically using the concept of implicit differentiation. This allows us to learn implicit shape and texture representations directly from RGB images. We experimentally show that our single-view reconstructions rival those learned with full 3D supervision. Moreover, we find that our method can be used for multi-view 3D reconstruction, directly resulting in watertight meshes.

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pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Video 3 Slides Poster [BibTex]

pdf suppmat Video 2 Project Page Video 1 Video 3 Slides Poster [BibTex]