We propose a structured prediction approach for robot imitation learning from demonstrations. Among various tools for robot imitation learning, supervised learning has been observed to have a prominent role. Structured prediction is a form of supervised learning that enables learning models to operate on output spaces with complex structures. Through the lens of structured prediction, we show how robots can learn to imitate trajectories belonging to not only Euclidean spaces but also Riemannian manifolds. Exploiting ideas from information theory, we propose a class of loss functions based on the f-divergence to measure the information loss between the demonstrated and reproduced probabilistic trajectories. Different types of f-divergence will result in different policies, which we call imitation modes. Furthermore, our approach enables the incorporation of spatial and temporal trajectory modulation, which is necessary for robots to be adaptive to the change in working conditions. We benchmark our algorithm against state-of-the-art methods in terms of trajectory reproduction and adaptation. The quantitative evaluation shows that our approach outperforms other algorithms regarding both accuracy and efficiency. We also report real-world experimental results on learning manifold trajectories in a polishing task with a KUKA LWR robot arm, illustrating the effectiveness of our algorithmic framework.
High Power Laser's (HPL) optimal performance is essential for the success of a wide variety of experimental tasks related to light-matter interactions. Traditionally, HPL parameters are optimised in an automated fashion relying on black-box numerical methods. However, these can be demanding in terms of computational resources and usually disregard transient and complex dynamics. Model-free Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) offers a promising alternative framework for optimising HPL performance since it allows to tune the control parameters as a function of system states subject to nonlinear temporal dynamics without requiring an explicit dynamics model of those. Furthermore, DRL aims to find an optimal control policy rather than a static parameter configuration, particularly suitable for dynamic processes involving sequential decision-making. This is particularly relevant as laser systems are typically characterised by dynamic rather than static traits. Hence the need for a strategy to choose the control applied based on the current context instead of one single optimal control configuration. This paper investigates the potential of DRL in improving the efficiency and safety of HPL control systems. We apply this technique to optimise the temporal profile of laser pulses in the L1 pump laser hosted at the ELI Beamlines facility. We show how to adapt DRL to the setting of spectral phase control by solely tuning dispersion coefficients of the spectral phase and reaching pulses similar to transform limited with full-width at half-maximum (FWHM) of ca1.6 ps.
Fine-tuning and Domain Adaptation emerged as effective strategies for efficiently transferring deep learning models to new target tasks. However, target domain labels are not accessible in many real-world scenarios. This led to the development of Unsupervised Domain Adaptation (UDA) methods, which only employ unlabeled target samples. Furthermore, efficiency and privacy requirements may also prevent the use of source domain data during the adaptation stage. This challenging setting, known as Source-Free Unsupervised Domain Adaptation (SF-UDA), is gaining interest among researchers and practitioners due to its potential for real-world applications. In this paper, we provide the first in-depth analysis of the main design choices in SF-UDA through a large-scale empirical study across 500 models and 74 domain pairs. We pinpoint the normalization approach, pre-training strategy, and backbone architecture as the most critical factors. Based on our quantitative findings, we propose recipes to best tackle SF-UDA scenarios. Moreover, we show that SF-UDA is competitive also beyond standard benchmarks and backbone architectures, performing on par with UDA at a fraction of the data and computational cost. In the interest of reproducibility, we include the full experimental results and code as supplementary material.
Optimization and planning methods for tasks involving 3D objects often rely on prior knowledge and ad-hoc heuristics. In this work, we target learning-based long-horizon path generation by leveraging recent advances in 3D deep learning. We present PaintNet, the first dataset for learning robotic spray painting of free-form 3D objects. PaintNet includes more than 800 object meshes and the associated painting strokes collected in a real industrial setting. We then introduce a novel 3D deep learning method to tackle this task and operate on unstructured input spaces -- point clouds -- and mix-structured output spaces -- unordered sets of painting strokes. Our extensive experimental analysis demonstrates the capabilities of our method to predict smooth output strokes that cover up to 95% of previously unseen object surfaces, with respect to ground-truth paint coverage. The PaintNet dataset and an implementation of our proposed approach will be released at https://gabrieletiboni.github.io/paintnet.
Balancing and push-recovery are essential capabilities enabling humanoid robots to solve complex locomotion tasks. In this context, classical control systems tend to be based on simplified physical models and hard-coded strategies. Although successful in specific scenarios, this approach requires demanding tuning of parameters and switching logic between specifically-designed controllers for handling more general perturbations. We apply model-free Deep Reinforcement Learning for training a general and robust humanoid push-recovery policy in a simulation environment. Our method targets high-dimensional whole-body humanoid control and is validated on the iCub humanoid. Reward components incorporating expert knowledge on humanoid control enable fast learning of several robust behaviors by the same policy, spanning the entire body. We validate our method with extensive quantitative analyses in simulation, including out-of-sample tasks which demonstrate policy robustness and generalization, both key requirements towards real-world robot deployment.
With the recent advances in machine learning, problems that traditionally would require accurate modeling to be solved analytically can now be successfully approached with data-driven strategies. Among these, computing the inverse kinematics of a redundant robot arm poses a significant challenge due to the non-linear structure of the robot, the hard joint constraints and the non-invertible kinematics map. Moreover, most learning algorithms consider a completely data-driven approach, while often useful information on the structure of the robot is available and should be positively exploited. In this work, we present a simple, yet effective, approach for learning the inverse kinematics. We introduce a structured prediction algorithm that combines a data-driven strategy with the model provided by a forward kinematics function -- even when this function is misspeficied -- to accurately solve the problem. The proposed approach ensures that predicted joint configurations are well within the robot's constraints. We also provide statistical guarantees on the generalization properties of our estimator as well as an empirical evaluation of its performance on trajectory reconstruction tasks.
Several object detection methods have recently been proposed in the literature, the vast majority based on Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNNs). Such architectures have been shown to achieve remarkable performance, at the cost of computationally expensive batch training and extensive labeling. These methods have important limitations for robotics: Learning solely on off-line data may introduce biases (the so-called domain shift), and prevents adaptation to novel tasks. In this work, we investigate how weakly-supervised learning can cope with these problems. We compare several techniques for weakly-supervised learning in detection pipelines to reduce model (re)training costs without compromising accuracy. In particular, we show that diversity sampling for constructing active learning queries and strong positives selection for self-supervised learning enable significant annotation savings and improve domain shift adaptation. By integrating our strategies into a hybrid DCNN/FALKON on-line detection pipeline , our method is able to be trained and updated efficiently with few labels, overcoming limitations of previous work. We experimentally validate and benchmark our method on challenging robotic object detection tasks under domain shift.
As the size and richness of available datasets grow larger, the opportunities for solving increasingly challenging problems with algorithms learning directly from data grow at the same pace. Consequently, the capability of learning algorithms to work with large amounts of data has become a crucial scientific and technological challenge for their practical applicability. Hence, it is no surprise that large-scale learning is currently drawing plenty of research effort in the machine learning research community. In this thesis, we focus on kernel methods, a theoretically sound and effective class of learning algorithms yielding nonparametric estimators. Kernel methods, in their classical formulations, are accurate and efficient on datasets of limited size, but do not scale up in a cost-effective manner. Recent research has shown that approximate learning algorithms, for instance random subsampling methods like Nystr\"om and random features, with time-memory-accuracy trade-off mechanisms are more scalable alternatives. In this thesis, we provide analyses of the generalization properties and computational requirements of several types of such approximation schemes. In particular, we expose the tight relationship between statistics and computations, with the goal of tailoring the accuracy of the learning process to the available computational resources. Our results are supported by experimental evidence on large-scale datasets and numerical simulations. We also study how large-scale learning can be applied to enable accurate, efficient, and reactive lifelong learning for robotics. In particular, we propose algorithms allowing robots to learn continuously from experience and adapt to changes in their operational environment. The proposed methods are validated on the iCub humanoid robot in addition to other benchmarks.
This paper discusses online algorithms for inverse dynamics modelling in robotics. Several model classes including rigid body dynamics (RBD) models, data-driven models and semiparametric models (which are a combination of the previous two classes) are placed in a common framework. While model classes used in the literature typically exploit joint velocities and accelerations, which need to be approximated resorting to numerical differentiation schemes, in this paper a new `derivative-free' framework is proposed that does not require this preprocessing step. An extensive experimental study with real data from the right arm of the iCub robot is presented, comparing different model classes and estimation procedures, showing that the proposed `derivative-free' methods outperform existing methodologies.
In this paper, we study the problem of deriving fast and accurate classification algorithms with uncertainty quantification. Gaussian process classification provides a principled approach, but the corresponding computational burden is hardly sustainable in large-scale problems and devising efficient alternatives is a challenge. In this work, we investigate if and how Gaussian process regression directly applied to the classification labels can be used to tackle this question. While in this case training time is remarkably faster, predictions need be calibrated for classification and uncertainty estimation. To this aim, we propose a novel approach based on interpreting the labels as the output of a Dirichlet distribution. Extensive experimental results show that the proposed approach provides essentially the same accuracy and uncertainty quantification of Gaussian process classification while requiring only a fraction of computational resources.