Header logo is


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.

ics

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

2017


Robotic Motion Learning Framework to Promote Social Engagement
Robotic Motion Learning Framework to Promote Social Engagement

Burns, R.

The George Washington University, August 2017 (mastersthesis)

Abstract
This paper discusses a novel framework designed to increase human-robot interaction through robotic imitation of the user's gestures. The set up consists of a humanoid robotic agent that socializes with and play games with the user. For the experimental group, the robot also imitates one of the user's novel gestures during a play session. We hypothesize that the robot's use of imitation will increase the user's openness towards engaging with the robot. Preliminary results from a pilot study of 12 subjects are promising in that post-imitation, experimental subjects displayed a more positive emotional state, had higher instances of mood contagion towards the robot, and interpreted the robot to have a higher level of autonomy than their control group counterparts. These results point to an increased user interest in engagement fueled by personalized imitation during interaction.

hi

link (url) [BibTex]

2017


link (url) [BibTex]


Human Shape Estimation using Statistical Body Models
Human Shape Estimation using Statistical Body Models

Loper, M. M.

University of Tübingen, May 2017 (thesis)

Abstract
Human body estimation methods transform real-world observations into predictions about human body state. These estimation methods benefit a variety of health, entertainment, clothing, and ergonomics applications. State may include pose, overall body shape, and appearance. Body state estimation is underconstrained by observations; ambiguity presents itself both in the form of missing data within observations, and also in the form of unknown correspondences between observations. We address this challenge with the use of a statistical body model: a data-driven virtual human. This helps resolve ambiguity in two ways. First, it fills in missing data, meaning that incomplete observations still result in complete shape estimates. Second, the model provides a statistically-motivated penalty for unlikely states, which enables more plausible body shape estimates. Body state inference requires more than a body model; we therefore build obser- vation models whose output is compared with real observations. In this thesis, body state is estimated from three types of observations: 3D motion capture markers, depth and color images, and high-resolution 3D scans. In each case, a forward process is proposed which simulates observations. By comparing observations to the results of the forward process, state can be adjusted to minimize the difference between simulated and observed data. We use gradient-based methods because they are critical to the precise estimation of state with a large number of parameters. The contributions of this work include three parts. First, we propose a method for the estimation of body shape, nonrigid deformation, and pose from 3D markers. Second, we present a concise approach to differentiating through the rendering process, with application to body shape estimation. And finally, we present a statistical body model trained from human body scans, with state-of-the-art fidelity, good runtime performance, and compatibility with existing animation packages.

ps

Official Version [BibTex]


Learning Inference Models for Computer Vision
Learning Inference Models for Computer Vision

Jampani, V.

MPI for Intelligent Systems and University of Tübingen, 2017 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Computer vision can be understood as the ability to perform 'inference' on image data. Breakthroughs in computer vision technology are often marked by advances in inference techniques, as even the model design is often dictated by the complexity of inference in them. This thesis proposes learning based inference schemes and demonstrates applications in computer vision. We propose techniques for inference in both generative and discriminative computer vision models. Despite their intuitive appeal, the use of generative models in vision is hampered by the difficulty of posterior inference, which is often too complex or too slow to be practical. We propose techniques for improving inference in two widely used techniques: Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling and message-passing inference. Our inference strategy is to learn separate discriminative models that assist Bayesian inference in a generative model. Experiments on a range of generative vision models show that the proposed techniques accelerate the inference process and/or converge to better solutions. A main complication in the design of discriminative models is the inclusion of prior knowledge in a principled way. For better inference in discriminative models, we propose techniques that modify the original model itself, as inference is simple evaluation of the model. We concentrate on convolutional neural network (CNN) models and propose a generalization of standard spatial convolutions, which are the basic building blocks of CNN architectures, to bilateral convolutions. First, we generalize the existing use of bilateral filters and then propose new neural network architectures with learnable bilateral filters, which we call `Bilateral Neural Networks'. We show how the bilateral filtering modules can be used for modifying existing CNN architectures for better image segmentation and propose a neural network approach for temporal information propagation in videos. Experiments demonstrate the potential of the proposed bilateral networks on a wide range of vision tasks and datasets. In summary, we propose learning based techniques for better inference in several computer vision models ranging from inverse graphics to freely parameterized neural networks. In generative vision models, our inference techniques alleviate some of the crucial hurdles in Bayesian posterior inference, paving new ways for the use of model based machine learning in vision. In discriminative CNN models, the proposed filter generalizations aid in the design of new neural network architectures that can handle sparse high-dimensional data as well as provide a way for incorporating prior knowledge into CNNs.

ps

pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


Capturing Hand-Object Interaction and Reconstruction of Manipulated Objects
Capturing Hand-Object Interaction and Reconstruction of Manipulated Objects

Tzionas, D.

University of Bonn, 2017 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Hand motion capture with an RGB-D sensor gained recently a lot of research attention, however, even most recent approaches focus on the case of a single isolated hand. We focus instead on hands that interact with other hands or with a rigid or articulated object. Our framework successfully captures motion in such scenarios by combining a generative model with discriminatively trained salient points, collision detection and physics simulation to achieve a low tracking error with physically plausible poses. All components are unified in a single objective function that can be optimized with standard optimization techniques. We initially assume a-priori knowledge of the object's shape and skeleton. In case of unknown object shape there are existing 3d reconstruction methods that capitalize on distinctive geometric or texture features. These methods though fail for textureless and highly symmetric objects like household articles, mechanical parts or toys. We show that extracting 3d hand motion for in-hand scanning effectively facilitates the reconstruction of such objects and we fuse the rich additional information of hands into a 3d reconstruction pipeline. Finally, although shape reconstruction is enough for rigid objects, there is a lack of tools that build rigged models of articulated objects that deform realistically using RGB-D data. We propose a method that creates a fully rigged model consisting of a watertight mesh, embedded skeleton and skinning weights by employing a combination of deformable mesh tracking, motion segmentation based on spectral clustering and skeletonization based on mean curvature flow.

ps

Thesis link (url) Project Page [BibTex]