Deploying service robots in our daily life, whether in restaurants, warehouses or hospitals, calls for the need to reason on the interactions happening in dense and dynamic scenes. In this paper, we present and benchmark three new approaches to model and predict multi-agent interactions in dense scenes, including the use of an intuitive qualitative representation. The proposed solutions take into account static and dynamic context to predict individual interactions. They exploit an input- and a temporal-attention mechanism, and are tested on medium and long-term time horizons. The first two approaches integrate different relations from the so-called Qualitative Trajectory Calculus (QTC) within a state-of-the-art deep neural network to create a symbol-driven neural architecture for predicting spatial interactions. The third approach implements a purely data-driven network for motion prediction, the output of which is post-processed to predict QTC spatial interactions. Experimental results on a popular robot dataset of challenging crowded scenarios show that the purely data-driven prediction approach generally outperforms the other two. The three approaches were further evaluated on a different but related human scenarios to assess their generalisation capability.
* This work will be published in the proceedings of IEEE RO-MAN 2023
(https://ro-man2023.org/main). arXiv admin note: text overlap with
Reasoning on the context of human beings is crucial for many real-world applications especially for those deploying autonomous systems (e.g. robots). In this paper, we present a new approach for context reasoning to further advance the field of human motion prediction. We therefore propose a neuro-symbolic approach for human motion prediction (NeuroSyM), which weights differently the interactions in the neighbourhood by leveraging an intuitive technique for spatial representation called Qualitative Trajectory Calculus (QTC). The proposed approach is experimentally tested on medium and long term time horizons using two architectures from the state of art, one of which is a baseline for human motion prediction and the other is a baseline for generic multivariate time-series prediction. Six datasets of challenging crowded scenarios, collected from both fixed and mobile cameras, were used for testing. Experimental results show that the NeuroSyM approach outperforms in most cases the baseline architectures in terms of prediction accuracy.
* International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN), 2023
Identifying the main features and learning the causal relationships of a dynamic system from time-series of sensor data are key problems in many real-world robot applications. In this paper, we propose an extension of a state-of-the-art causal discovery method, PCMCI, embedding an additional feature-selection module based on transfer entropy. Starting from a prefixed set of variables, the new algorithm reconstructs the causal model of the observed system by considering only its main features and neglecting those deemed unnecessary for understanding the evolution of the system. We first validate the method on a toy problem and on synthetic data of brain network, for which the ground-truth models are available, and then on a real-world robotics scenario using a large-scale time-series dataset of human trajectories. The experiments demonstrate that our solution outperforms the previous state-of-the-art technique in terms of accuracy and computational efficiency, allowing better and faster causal discovery of meaningful models from robot sensor data.
* Published at 2023 Conference on Causal Learning and Reasoning (CLeaR)
3D point cloud semantic classification is an important task in robotics as it enables a better understanding of the mapped environment. This work proposes to learn the long-term stability of the 3D objects using a neural network based on PointNet++, where the long-term stable object refers to a static object that cannot move on its own (e.g. tree, pole, building). The training data is generated in an unsupervised manner by assigning a continuous label to individual points by exploiting multiple time slices of the same environment. Instead of using discrete labels, i.e. static/dynamic, we propose to use a continuous label value indicating point temporal stability to train a regression PointNet++ network. We evaluated our approach on point cloud data of two parking lots from the NCLT dataset. The experiments' performance reveals that static vs dynamic object classification is best performed by training a regression model, followed by thresholding, compared to directly training a classification model.
Long-term autonomy is one of the most demanded capabilities looked into a robot. The possibility to perform the same task over and over on a long temporal horizon, offering a high standard of reproducibility and robustness, is appealing. Long-term autonomy can play a crucial role in the adoption of robotics systems for precision agriculture, for example in assisting humans in monitoring and harvesting crops in a large orchard. With this scope in mind, we report an ongoing effort in the long-term deployment of an autonomous mobile robot in a vineyard for data collection across multiple months. The main aim is to collect data from the same area at different points in time so to be able to analyse the impact of the environmental changes in the mapping and localisation tasks. In this work, we present a map-based localisation study taking 4 data sessions. We identify expected failures when the pre-built map visually differs from the environment's current appearance and we anticipate LTS-Net, a solution pointed at extracting stable temporal features for improving long-term 4D localisation results.
* Presented at the "Perception and Navigation for Autonomous Robotics
in Unstructured and Dynamic Environments" (PNARUDE) Workshop at IROS 22
Yield forecasting is a critical first step necessary for yield optimisation, with important consequences for the broader food supply chain, procurement, price-negotiation, logistics, and supply. However yield forecasting is notoriously difficult, and oft-inaccurate. Premonition Net is a multi-timeline, time sequence ingesting approach towards processing the past, the present, and premonitions of the future. We show how this structure combined with transformers attains critical yield forecasting proficiency towards improving food security, lowering prices, and reducing waste. We find data availability to be a continued difficulty however using our premonition network and our own collected data we attain yield forecasts 3 weeks ahead with a a testing set RMSE loss of ~0.08 across our latest season.
* 9 pages, 6 figures, IEEE two column format style
Exploiting robots for activities in human-shared environments, whether warehouses, shopping centres or hospitals, calls for such robots to understand the underlying physical interactions between nearby agents and objects. In particular, modelling cause-and-effect relations between the latter can help to predict unobserved human behaviours and anticipate the outcome of specific robot interventions. In this paper, we propose an application of causal discovery methods to model human-robot spatial interactions, trying to understand human behaviours from real-world sensor data in two possible scenarios: humans interacting with the environment, and humans interacting with obstacles. New methods and practical solutions are discussed to exploit, for the first time, a state-of-the-art causal discovery algorithm in some challenging human environments, with potential application in many service robotics scenarios. To demonstrate the utility of the causal models obtained from real-world datasets, we present a comparison between causal and non-causal prediction approaches. Our results show that the causal model correctly captures the underlying interactions of the considered scenarios and improves its prediction accuracy.
The majority of motion planning strategies developed over the literature for reaching an object in clutter are applied to two dimensional (2-d) space where the state space of the environment is constrained in one direction. Fewer works have been investigated to reach a target in 3-d cluttered space, and when so, they have limited performance when applied to complex cases. In this work, we propose a constrained multi-objective optimization framework (OptI-ProMP) to approach the problem of reaching a target in a compact clutter with a case study on soft fruits grown in clusters, leveraging the local optimisation-based planner CHOMP. OptI-ProMP features costs related to both static, dynamic and pushable objects in the target neighborhood, and it relies on probabilistic primitives for problem initialisation. We tested, in a simulated poly-tunnel, both ProMP-based planners from literature and the OptI-ProMP, on low (3-dofs) and high (7-dofs) dexterity robot body, respectively. Results show collision and pushing costs minimisation with 7-dofs robot kinematics, in addition to successful static obstacles avoidance and systematic drifting from the pushable objects center of mass.
* 6 pages. 2022 IEEE 18th International Conference on Automation
Science and Engineering (CASE)
In this work, we propose a framework for allowing autonomous robots deployed for extended periods of time in public spaces to adapt their own behaviour online from user interactions. The robot behaviour planning is embedded in a Reinforcement Learning (RL) framework, where the objective is maximising the level of overall user engagement during the interactions. We use the Upper-Confidence-Bound Value-Iteration (UCBVI) algorithm, which gives a helpful way of managing the exploration-exploitation trade-off for real-time interactions. An engagement model trained end-to-end generates the reward function in real-time during policy execution. We test this approach in a public museum in Lincoln (UK), where the robot is deployed as a tour guide for the visitors. Results show that after a couple of months of exploration, the robot policy learned to maintain the engagement of users for longer, with an increase of 22.8% over the initial static policy in the number of items visited during the tour and a 30% increase in the probability of completing the tour. This work is a promising step toward behavioural adaptation in long-term scenarios for robotics applications in social settings.