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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]

2013


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Camera-specific Image Denoising

Schober, M.

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany, October 2013 (diplomathesis)

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PDF [BibTex]

2013


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Statistics on Manifolds with Applications to Modeling Shape Deformations
Statistics on Manifolds with Applications to Modeling Shape Deformations

Freifeld, O.

Brown University, August 2013 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Statistical models of non-rigid deformable shape have wide application in many fi elds, including computer vision, computer graphics, and biometry. We show that shape deformations are well represented through nonlinear manifolds that are also matrix Lie groups. These pattern-theoretic representations lead to several advantages over other alternatives, including a principled measure of shape dissimilarity and a natural way to compose deformations. Moreover, they enable building models using statistics on manifolds. Consequently, such models are superior to those based on Euclidean representations. We demonstrate this by modeling 2D and 3D human body shape. Shape deformations are only one example of manifold-valued data. More generally, in many computer-vision and machine-learning problems, nonlinear manifold representations arise naturally and provide a powerful alternative to Euclidean representations. Statistics is traditionally concerned with data in a Euclidean space, relying on the linear structure and the distances associated with such a space; this renders it inappropriate for nonlinear spaces. Statistics can, however, be generalized to nonlinear manifolds. Moreover, by respecting the underlying geometry, the statistical models result in not only more e ffective analysis but also consistent synthesis. We go beyond previous work on statistics on manifolds by showing how, even on these curved spaces, problems related to modeling a class from scarce data can be dealt with by leveraging information from related classes residing in di fferent regions of the space. We show the usefulness of our approach with 3D shape deformations. To summarize our main contributions: 1) We de fine a new 2D articulated model -- more expressive than traditional ones -- of deformable human shape that factors body-shape, pose, and camera variations. Its high realism is obtained from training data generated from a detailed 3D model. 2) We defi ne a new manifold-based representation of 3D shape deformations that yields statistical deformable-template models that are better than the current state-of-the- art. 3) We generalize a transfer learning idea from Euclidean spaces to Riemannian manifolds. This work demonstrates the value of modeling manifold-valued data and their statistics explicitly on the manifold. Specifi cally, the methods here provide new tools for shape analysis.

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pdf Project Page [BibTex]


Probabilistic Models for 3D Urban Scene Understanding from Movable Platforms
Probabilistic Models for 3D Urban Scene Understanding from Movable Platforms

Geiger, A.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, April 2013 (phdthesis)

Abstract
Visual 3D scene understanding is an important component in autonomous driving and robot navigation. Intelligent vehicles for example often base their decisions on observations obtained from video cameras as they are cheap and easy to employ. Inner-city intersections represent an interesting but also very challenging scenario in this context: The road layout may be very complex and observations are often noisy or even missing due to heavy occlusions. While Highway navigation and autonomous driving on simple and annotated intersections have already been demonstrated successfully, understanding and navigating general inner-city crossings with little prior knowledge remains an unsolved problem. This thesis is a contribution to understanding multi-object traffic scenes from video sequences. All data is provided by a camera system which is mounted on top of the autonomous driving platform AnnieWAY. The proposed probabilistic generative model reasons jointly about the 3D scene layout as well as the 3D location and orientation of objects in the scene. In particular, the scene topology, geometry as well as traffic activities are inferred from short video sequences. The model takes advantage of monocular information in the form of vehicle tracklets, vanishing lines and semantic labels. Additionally, the benefit of stereo features such as 3D scene flow and occupancy grids is investigated. Motivated by the impressive driving capabilities of humans, no further information such as GPS, lidar, radar or map knowledge is required. Experiments conducted on 113 representative intersection sequences show that the developed approach successfully infers the correct layout in a variety of difficult scenarios. To evaluate the importance of each feature cue, experiments with different feature combinations are conducted. Additionally, the proposed method is shown to improve object detection and object orientation estimation performance.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]


A Study of X-Ray Image Perception for Pneumoconiosis Detection
A Study of X-Ray Image Perception for Pneumoconiosis Detection

Jampani, V.

IIIT-Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India, January 2013 (mastersthesis)

Abstract
Pneumoconiosis is an occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of industrial dust. Despite the increasing safety measures and better work place environments, pneumoconiosis is deemed to be the most common occupational disease in the developing countries like India and China. Screening and assessment of this disease is done through radiological observation of chest x-rays. Several studies have shown the significant inter and intra reader observer variation in the diagnosis of this disease, showing the complexity of the task and importance of the expertise in diagnosis. The present study is aimed at understanding the perceptual and cognitive factors affecting the reading of chest x-rays of pneumoconiosis patients. Understanding these factors helps in developing better image acquisition systems, better training regimen for radiologists and development of better computer aided diagnostic (CAD) systems. We used an eye tracking experiment to study the various factors affecting the assessment of this diffused lung disease. Specifically, we aimed at understanding the role of expertize, contralateral symmetric (CS) information present in chest x-rays on the diagnosis and the eye movements of the observers. We also studied the inter and intra observer fixation consistency along with the role of anatomical and bottom up saliency features in attracting the gaze of observers of different expertize levels, to get better insights into the effect of bottom up and top down visual saliency on the eye movements of observers. The experiment is conducted in a room dedicated to eye tracking experiments. Participants consisting of novices (3), medical students (12), residents (4) and staff radiologists (4) were presented with good quality PA chest X-rays, and were asked to give profusion ratings for each of the 6 lung zones. Image set consisting of 17 normal full chest x-rays and 16 single lung images are shown to the participants in random order. Time of the diagnosis and the eye movements are also recorded using a remote head free eye tracker. Results indicated that Expertise and CS play important roles in the diagnosis of pneumoconiosis. Novices and medical students are slow and inefficient whereas, residents and staff are quick and efficient. A key finding of our study is that the presence of CS information alone does not help improve diagnosis as much as learning how to use the information. This learning appears to be gained from focused training and years of experience. Hence, good training for radiologists and careful observation of each lung zone may improve the quality of diagnostic results. For residents, the eye scanning strategies play an important role in using the CS information present in chest radiographs; however, in staff radiologists, peripheral vision or higher-level cognitive processes seems to play role in using the CS information. There is a reasonably good inter and intra observer fixation consistency suggesting the use of similar viewing strategies. Experience is helping the observers to develop new visual strategies based on the image content so that they can quickly and efficiently assess the disease level. First few fixations seem to be playing an important role in choosing the visual strategy, appropriate for the given image. Both inter-rib and rib regions are given equal importance by the observers. Despite reading of chest x-rays being highly task dependent, bottom up saliency is shown to have played an important role in attracting the fixations of the observers. This role of bottom up saliency seems to be more in lower expertize groups compared to that of higher expertize groups. Both bottom up and top down influence of visual fixations seems to change with time. The relative role of top down and bottom up influences of visual attention is still not completely understood and it remains the part of future work. Based on our experimental results, we have developed an extended saliency model by combining the bottom up saliency and the saliency of lung regions in a chest x-ray. This new saliency model performed significantly better than bottom-up saliency in predicting the gaze of the observers in our experiment. Even though, the model is a simple combination of bottom-up saliency maps and segmented lung masks, this demonstrates that even basic models using simple image features can predict the fixations of the observers to a good accuracy. Experimental analysis suggested that the factors affecting the reading of chest x-rays of pneumoconiosis are complex and varied. A good understanding of these factors definitely helps in the development of better radiological screening of pneumoconiosis through improved training and also through the use of improved CAD tools. The presented work is an attempt to get insights into what these factors are and how they modify the behavior of the observers.

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pdf [BibTex]

pdf [BibTex]