Snake robots have showcased remarkable compliance and adaptability in their interaction with environments, mirroring the traits of their natural counterparts. While their hyper-redundant and high-dimensional characteristics add to this adaptability, they also pose great challenges to robot control. Instead of perceiving the hyper-redundancy and flexibility of snake robots as mere challenges, there lies an unexplored potential in leveraging these traits to enhance robustness and generalizability at the control policy level. We seek to develop a control policy that effectively breaks down the high dimensionality of snake robots while harnessing their redundancy. In this work, we consider the snake robot as a modular robot and formulate the control of the snake robot as a cooperative Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning (MARL) problem. Each segment of the snake robot functions as an individual agent. Specifically, we incorporate a self-attention mechanism to enhance the cooperative behavior between agents. A high-level imagination policy is proposed to provide additional rewards to guide the low-level control policy. We validate the proposed method COMPOSER with five snake robot tasks, including goal reaching, wall climbing, shape formation, tube crossing, and block pushing. COMPOSER achieves the highest success rate across all tasks when compared to a centralized baseline and four modular policy baselines. Additionally, we show enhanced robustness against module corruption and significantly superior zero-shot generalizability in our proposed method. The videos of this work are available on our project page: https://sites.google.com/view/composer-snake/.
Manipulating deformable linear objects by robots has a wide range of applications, e.g., manufacturing and medical surgery. To complete such tasks, an accurate dynamics model for predicting the deformation is critical for robust control. In this work, we deal with this challenge by proposing a hybrid offline-online method to learn the dynamics of cables in a robust and data-efficient manner. In the offline phase, we adopt Graph Neural Network (GNN) to learn the deformation dynamics purely from the simulation data. Then a linear residual model is learned in real-time to bridge the sim-to-real gap. The learned model is then utilized as the dynamics constraint of a trust region based Model Predictive Controller (MPC) to calculate the optimal robot movements. The online learning and MPC run in a closed-loop manner to robustly accomplish the task. Finally, comparative results with existing methods are provided to quantitatively show the effectiveness and robustness.