In nature, legged animals have developed the ability to adapt to challenging terrains through perception, allowing them to plan safe body and foot trajectories in advance, which leads to safe and energy-efficient locomotion. Inspired by this observation, we present a novel approach to train a Deep Neural Network (DNN) policy that integrates proprioceptive and exteroceptive states with a parameterized trajectory generator for quadruped robots to traverse rough terrains. Our key idea is to use a DNN policy that can modify the parameters of the trajectory generator, such as foot height and frequency, to adapt to different terrains. To encourage the robot to step on safe regions and save energy consumption, we propose foot terrain reward and lifting foot height reward, respectively. By incorporating these rewards, our method can learn a safer and more efficient terrain-aware locomotion policy that can move a quadruped robot flexibly in any direction. To evaluate the effectiveness of our approach, we conduct simulation experiments on challenging terrains, including stairs, stepping stones, and poles. The simulation results demonstrate that our approach can successfully direct the robot to traverse such tough terrains in any direction. Furthermore, we validate our method on a real legged robot, which learns to traverse stepping stones with gaps over 25.5cm.
Summarizing knowledge from animals and human beings inspires robotic innovations. In this work, we propose a framework for driving legged robots act like real animals with lifelike agility and strategy in complex environments. Inspired by large pre-trained models witnessed with impressive performance in language and image understanding, we introduce the power of advanced deep generative models to produce motor control signals stimulating legged robots to act like real animals. Unlike conventional controllers and end-to-end RL methods that are task-specific, we propose to pre-train generative models over animal motion datasets to preserve expressive knowledge of animal behavior. The pre-trained model holds sufficient primitive-level knowledge yet is environment-agnostic. It is then reused for a successive stage of learning to align with the environments by traversing a number of challenging obstacles that are rarely considered in previous approaches, including creeping through narrow spaces, jumping over hurdles, freerunning over scattered blocks, etc. Finally, a task-specific controller is trained to solve complex downstream tasks by reusing the knowledge from previous stages. Enriching the knowledge regarding each stage does not affect the usage of other levels of knowledge. This flexible framework offers the possibility of continual knowledge accumulation at different levels. We successfully apply the trained multi-level controllers to the MAX robot, a quadrupedal robot developed in-house, to mimic animals, traverse complex obstacles, and play in a designed challenging multi-agent Chase Tag Game, where lifelike agility and strategy emerge on the robots. The present research pushes the frontier of robot control with new insights on reusing multi-level pre-trained knowledge and solving highly complex downstream tasks in the real world.
In this paper, we present a general learning framework for controlling a quadruped robot that can mimic the behavior of real animals and traverse challenging terrains. Our method consists of two steps: an imitation learning step to learn from motions of real animals, and a terrain adaptation step to enable generalization to unseen terrains. We capture motions from a Labrador on various terrains to facilitate terrain adaptive locomotion. Our experiments demonstrate that our policy can traverse various terrains and produce a natural-looking behavior. We deployed our method on the real quadruped robot Max via zero-shot simulation-to-reality transfer, achieving a speed of 1.1 m/s on stairs climbing.
We present a neural network-based system for long-term, multi-action human motion synthesis. The system, dubbed as NEURAL MARIONETTE, can produce high-quality and meaningful motions with smooth transitions from simple user input, including a sequence of action tags with expected action duration, and optionally a hand-drawn moving trajectory if the user specifies. The core of our system is a novel Transformer-based motion generation model, namely MARIONET, which can generate diverse motions given action tags. Different from existing motion generation models, MARIONET utilizes contextual information from the past motion clip and future action tag, dedicated to generating actions that can smoothly blend historical and future actions. Specifically, MARIONET first encodes target action tag and contextual information into an action-level latent code. The code is unfolded into frame-level control signals via a time unrolling module, which could be then combined with other frame-level control signals like the target trajectory. Motion frames are then generated in an auto-regressive way. By sequentially applying MARIONET, the system NEURAL MARIONETTE can robustly generate long-term, multi-action motions with the help of two simple schemes, namely "Shadow Start" and "Action Revision". Along with the novel system, we also present a new dataset dedicated to the multi-action motion synthesis task, which contains both action tags and their contextual information. Extensive experiments are conducted to study the action accuracy, naturalism, and transition smoothness of the motions generated by our system.
Motion style transfer is highly desired for motion generation systems for gaming. Compared to its offline counterpart, the research on online motion style transfer under interactive control is limited. In this work, we propose an end-to-end neural network that can generate motions with different styles and transfer motion styles in real-time under user control. Our approach eliminates the use of handcrafted phase features, and could be easily trained and directly deployed in game systems. In the experiment part, we evaluate our approach from three aspects that are essential for industrial game design: accuracy, flexibility, and variety, and our model performs a satisfying result.
In this paper, we present a novel path planning algorithm to achieve fast path planning in complex environments. Most existing path planning algorithms are difficult to quickly find a feasible path in complex environments or even fail. However, our proposed framework can overcome this difficulty by using a learning-based prediction module and a sampling-based path planning module. The prediction module utilizes an auto-encoder-decoder-like convolutional neural network (CNN) to output a promising region where the feasible path probably lies in. In this process, the environment is treated as an RGB image to feed in our designed CNN module, and the output is also an RGB image. No extra computation is required so that we can maintain a high processing speed of 60 frames-per-second (FPS). Incorporated with a sampling-based path planner, we can extract a feasible path from the output image so that the robot can track it from start to goal. To demonstrate the advantage of the proposed algorithm, we compare it with conventional path planning algorithms in a series of simulation experiments. The results reveal that the proposed algorithm can achieve much better performance in terms of planning time, success rate, and path length.
Being able to explore unknown environments is a requirement for fully autonomous robots. Many learning-based methods have been proposed to learn an exploration strategy. In the frontier-based exploration, learning algorithms tend to learn the optimal or near-optimal frontier to explore. Most of these methods represent the environments as fixed size images and take these as inputs to neural networks. However, the size of environments is usually unknown, which makes these methods fail to generalize to real world scenarios. To address this issue, we present a novel state representation method based on 4D point-clouds-like information, including the locations, frontier, and distance information. We also design a neural network that can process these 4D point-clouds-like information and generate the estimated value for each frontier. Then this neural network is trained using the typical reinforcement learning framework. We test the performance of our proposed method by comparing it with other five methods and test its scalability on a map that is much larger than maps in the training set. The experiment results demonstrate that our proposed method needs shorter average traveling distances to explore whole environments and can be adopted in maps with arbitrarily sizes.
Robotic in-hand manipulation has been a long-standing challenge due to the complexity of modelling hand and object in contact and of coordinating finger motion for complex manipulation sequences. To address these challenges, the majority of prior work has either focused on model-based, low-level controllers or on model-free deep reinforcement learning that each have their own limitations. We propose a hierarchical method that relies on traditional, model-based controllers on the low-level and learned policies on the mid-level. The low-level controllers can robustly execute different manipulation primitives (reposing, sliding, flipping). The mid-level policy orchestrates these primitives. We extensively evaluate our approach in simulation with a 3-fingered hand that controls three degrees of freedom of elongated objects. We show that our approach can move objects between almost all the possible poses in the workspace while keeping them firmly grasped. We also show that our approach is robust to inaccuracies in the object models and to observation noise. Finally, we show how our approach generalizes to objects of other shapes.
We present a learning-based approach to solving a Rubik's cube with a multi-fingered dexterous hand. Despite the promising performance of dexterous in-hand manipulation, solving complex tasks which involve multiple steps and diverse internal object structure has remained an important, yet challenging task. In this paper, we tackle this challenge with a hierarchical deep reinforcement learning method, which separates planning and manipulation. A model-based cube solver finds an optimal move sequence for restoring the cube and a model-free cube operator controls all five fingers to execute each move step by step. To train our models, we build a high-fidelity simulator which manipulates a Rubik's Cube, an object containing high-dimensional state space, with a 24-DoF robot hand. Extensive experiments on 1400 randomly scrambled Rubik's cubes demonstrate the effectiveness of our method, achieving an average success rate of 90.3%.
As one of the most promising areas, mobile robots draw much attention these years. Current work in this field is often evaluated in a few manually designed scenarios, due to the lack of a common experimental platform. Meanwhile, with the recent development of deep learning techniques, some researchers attempt to apply learning-based methods to mobile robot tasks, which requires a substantial amount of data. To satisfy the underlying demand, in this paper we build HouseExpo, a large-scale indoor layout dataset containing 35,357 2D floor plans including 252,550 rooms in total. Together we develop Pseudo-SLAM, a lightweight and efficient simulation platform to accelerate the data generation procedure, thereby speeding up the training process. In our experiments, we build models to tackle obstacle avoidance and autonomous exploration from a learning perspective in simulation as well as real-world experiments to verify the effectiveness of our simulator and dataset. All the data and codes are available online and we hope HouseExpo and Pseudo-SLAM can feed the need for data and benefits the whole community.