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2020


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]

2015


Gaussian Process Optimization for Self-Tuning Control
Gaussian Process Optimization for Self-Tuning Control

Marco, A.

Polytechnic University of Catalonia (BarcelonaTech), October 2015 (mastersthesis)

am ics

PDF Project Page [BibTex]

2015


PDF Project Page [BibTex]


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Adaptive and Learning Concepts in Hydraulic Force Control

Doerr, A.

University of Stuttgart, September 2015 (mastersthesis)

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


Shape Models of the Human Body for Distributed Inference
Shape Models of the Human Body for Distributed Inference

Zuffi, S.

Brown University, May 2015 (phdthesis)

Abstract
In this thesis we address the problem of building shape models of the human body, in 2D and 3D, which are realistic and efficient to use. We focus our efforts on the human body, which is highly articulated and has interesting shape variations, but the approaches we present here can be applied to generic deformable and articulated objects. To address efficiency, we constrain our models to be part-based and have a tree-structured representation with pairwise relationships between connected parts. This allows the application of methods for distributed inference based on message passing. To address realism, we exploit recent advances in computer graphics that represent the human body with statistical shape models learned from 3D scans. We introduce two articulated body models, a 2D model, named Deformable Structures (DS), which is a contour-based model parameterized for 2D pose and projected shape, and a 3D model, named Stitchable Puppet (SP), which is a mesh-based model parameterized for 3D pose, pose-dependent deformations and intrinsic body shape. We have successfully applied the models to interesting and challenging problems in computer vision and computer graphics, namely pose estimation from static images, pose estimation from video sequences, pose and shape estimation from 3D scan data. This advances the state of the art in human pose and shape estimation and suggests that carefully de ned realistic models can be important for computer vision. More work at the intersection of vision and graphics is thus encouraged.

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From Scans to Models: Registration of 3D Human Shapes Exploiting Texture Information
From Scans to Models: Registration of 3D Human Shapes Exploiting Texture Information

Bogo, F.

University of Padova, March 2015 (phdthesis)

Abstract
New scanning technologies are increasing the importance of 3D mesh data, and of algorithms that can reliably register meshes obtained from multiple scans. Surface registration is important e.g. for building full 3D models from partial scans, identifying and tracking objects in a 3D scene, creating statistical shape models. Human body registration is particularly important for many applications, ranging from biomedicine and robotics to the production of movies and video games; but obtaining accurate and reliable registrations is challenging, given the articulated, non-rigidly deformable structure of the human body. In this thesis, we tackle the problem of 3D human body registration. We start by analyzing the current state of the art, and find that: a) most registration techniques rely only on geometric information, which is ambiguous on flat surface areas; b) there is a lack of adequate datasets and benchmarks in the field. We address both issues. Our contribution is threefold. First, we present a model-based registration technique for human meshes that combines geometry and surface texture information to provide highly accurate mesh-to-mesh correspondences. Our approach estimates scene lighting and surface albedo, and uses the albedo to construct a high-resolution textured 3D body model that is brought into registration with multi-camera image data using a robust matching term. Second, by leveraging our technique, we present FAUST (Fine Alignment Using Scan Texture), a novel dataset collecting 300 high-resolution scans of 10 people in a wide range of poses. FAUST is the first dataset providing both real scans and automatically computed, reliable "ground-truth" correspondences between them. Third, we explore possible uses of our approach in dermatology. By combining our registration technique with a melanocytic lesion segmentation algorithm, we propose a system that automatically detects new or evolving lesions over almost the entire body surface, thus helping dermatologists identify potential melanomas. We conclude this thesis investigating the benefits of using texture information to establish frame-to-frame correspondences in dynamic monocular sequences captured with consumer depth cameras. We outline a novel approach to reconstruct realistic body shape and appearance models from dynamic human performances, and show preliminary results on challenging sequences captured with a Kinect.

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[BibTex]


Long Range Motion Estimation and Applications
Long Range Motion Estimation and Applications

Sevilla-Lara, L.

Long Range Motion Estimation and Applications, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Febuary 2015 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Finding correspondences between images underlies many computer vision problems, such as optical flow, tracking, stereovision and alignment. Finding these correspondences involves formulating a matching function and optimizing it. This optimization process is often gradient descent, which avoids exhaustive search, but relies on the assumption of being in the basin of attraction of the right local minimum. This is often the case when the displacement is small, and current methods obtain very accurate results for small motions. However, when the motion is large and the matching function is bumpy this assumption is less likely to be true. One traditional way of avoiding this abruptness is to smooth the matching function spatially by blurring the images. As the displacement becomes larger, the amount of blur required to smooth the matching function becomes also larger. This averaging of pixels leads to a loss of detail in the image. Therefore, there is a trade-off between the size of the objects that can be tracked and the displacement that can be captured. In this thesis we address the basic problem of increasing the size of the basin of attraction in a matching function. We use an image descriptor called distribution fields (DFs). By blurring the images in DF space instead of in pixel space, we in- crease the size of the basin attraction with respect to traditional methods. We show competitive results using DFs both in object tracking and optical flow. Finally we demonstrate an application of capturing large motions for temporal video stitching.

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[BibTex]

[BibTex]


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Policy Search for Imitation Learning

Doerr, A.

University of Stuttgart, January 2015 (thesis)

am ics

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]

link (url) Project Page [BibTex]