skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on October 1, 2022

Title: "Good Robot! Now Watch This!": Repurposing Reinforcement Learning for Task-to-Task Transfer
Modern Reinforcement Learning (RL) algorithms are not sample efficient to train on multi-step tasks in complex domains, impeding their wider deployment in the real world. We address this problem by leveraging the insight that RL models trained to complete one set of tasks can be repurposed to complete related tasks when given just a handful of demonstrations. Based upon this insight, we propose See-SPOT-Run (SSR), a new computational approach to robot learning that enables a robot to complete a variety of real robot tasks in novel problem domains without task-specific training. SSR uses pretrained RL models to create vectors that represent model, task, and action relevance in demonstration and test scenes. SSR then compares these vectors via our Cycle Consistency Distance (CCD) metric to determine the next action to take. SSR completes 58% more task steps and 20% more trials than a baseline few-shot learning method that requires task-specific training. SSR also achieves a four order of magnitude improvement in compute efficiency and a 20% to three order of magnitude improvement in sample efficiency compared to the baseline and to training RL models from scratch. To our knowledge, we are the first to address multi-step tasks from demonstration on a more » real robot without task-specific training, where both the visual input and action space output are high dimensional. Code is available in the supplement. « less
; ; ; ; ; ;
Aleksandra Faust, David Hsu
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of Machine Learning Research
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Faust, Aleksandra ; Hsu, David ; Neumann, Gerhard (Ed.)
    Enabling human operators to interact with robotic agents using natural language would allow non-experts to intuitively instruct these agents. Towards this goal, we propose a novel Transformer-based model which enables a user to guide a robot arm through a 3D multi-step manipulation task with natural language commands. Our system maps images and commands to masks over grasp or place locations, grounding the language directly in perceptual space. In a suite of block rearrangement tasks, we show that these masks can be combined with an existing manipulation framework without re-training, greatly improving learning efficiency. Our masking model is several orders ofmore »magnitude more sample efficient than typical Transformer models, operating with hundreds, not millions, of examples. Our modular design allows us to leverage supervised and reinforcement learning, providing an easy interface for experimentation with different architectures. Our model completes block manipulation tasks with synthetic commands more often than a UNet-based baseline, and learns to localize actions correctly while creating a mapping of symbols to perceptual input that supports compositional reasoning. We provide a valuable resource for 3D manipulation instruction following research by porting an existing 3D block dataset with crowdsourced language to a simulated environment. Our method’s absolute improvement in identifying the correct block on the ported dataset demonstrates its ability to handle syntactic and lexical variation.« less
  2. A major challenge in real-world reinforcement learning (RL) is the sparsity of reward feedback. Often, what is available is an intuitive but sparse reward function that only indicates whether the task is completed partially or fully. However, the lack of carefully designed, fine grain feedback implies that most existing RL algorithms fail to learn an acceptable policy in a reasonable time frame. This is because of the large number of exploration actions that the policy has to perform before it gets any useful feedback that it can learn from. In this work, we address this challenging problem by developing anmore »algorithm that exploits the offline demonstration data generated by a sub-optimal behavior policy for faster and efficient online RL in such sparse reward settings. The proposed algorithm, which we call the Learning Online with Guidance Offline (LOGO) algorithm, merges a policy improvement step with an additional policy guidance step by using the offline demonstration data. The key idea is that by obtaining guidance from - not imitating - the offline data, LOGO orients its policy in the manner of the sub-optimal policy, while yet being able to learn beyond and approach optimality. We provide a theoretical analysis of our algorithm, and provide a lower bound on the performance improvement in each learning episode. We also extend our algorithm to the even more challenging incomplete observation setting, where the demonstration data contains only a censored version of the true state observation. We demonstrate the superior performance of our algorithm over state-of-the-art approaches on a number of benchmark environments with sparse rewards and censored state. Further, we demonstrate the value of our approach via implementing LOGO on a mobile robot for trajectory tracking and obstacle avoidance, where it shows excellent performance.« less
  3. Obeid, Iyad Selesnick (Ed.)
    Electroencephalography (EEG) is a popular clinical monitoring tool used for diagnosing brain-related disorders such as epilepsy [1]. As monitoring EEGs in a critical-care setting is an expensive and tedious task, there is a great interest in developing real-time EEG monitoring tools to improve patient care quality and efficiency [2]. However, clinicians require automatic seizure detection tools that provide decisions with at least 75% sensitivity and less than 1 false alarm (FA) per 24 hours [3]. Some commercial tools recently claim to reach such performance levels, including the Olympic Brainz Monitor [4] and Persyst 14 [5]. In this abstract, we describemore »our efforts to transform a high-performance offline seizure detection system [3] into a low latency real-time or online seizure detection system. An overview of the system is shown in Figure 1. The main difference between an online versus offline system is that an online system should always be causal and has minimum latency which is often defined by domain experts. The offline system, shown in Figure 2, uses two phases of deep learning models with postprocessing [3]. The channel-based long short term memory (LSTM) model (Phase 1 or P1) processes linear frequency cepstral coefficients (LFCC) [6] features from each EEG channel separately. We use the hypotheses generated by the P1 model and create additional features that carry information about the detected events and their confidence. The P2 model uses these additional features and the LFCC features to learn the temporal and spatial aspects of the EEG signals using a hybrid convolutional neural network (CNN) and LSTM model. Finally, Phase 3 aggregates the results from both P1 and P2 before applying a final postprocessing step. The online system implements Phase 1 by taking advantage of the Linux piping mechanism, multithreading techniques, and multi-core processors. To convert Phase 1 into an online system, we divide the system into five major modules: signal preprocessor, feature extractor, event decoder, postprocessor, and visualizer. The system reads 0.1-second frames from each EEG channel and sends them to the feature extractor and the visualizer. The feature extractor generates LFCC features in real time from the streaming EEG signal. Next, the system computes seizure and background probabilities using a channel-based LSTM model and applies a postprocessor to aggregate the detected events across channels. The system then displays the EEG signal and the decisions simultaneously using a visualization module. The online system uses C++, Python, TensorFlow, and PyQtGraph in its implementation. The online system accepts streamed EEG data sampled at 250 Hz as input. The system begins processing the EEG signal by applying a TCP montage [8]. Depending on the type of the montage, the EEG signal can have either 22 or 20 channels. To enable the online operation, we send 0.1-second (25 samples) length frames from each channel of the streamed EEG signal to the feature extractor and the visualizer. Feature extraction is performed sequentially on each channel. The signal preprocessor writes the sample frames into two streams to facilitate these modules. In the first stream, the feature extractor receives the signals using stdin. In parallel, as a second stream, the visualizer shares a user-defined file with the signal preprocessor. This user-defined file holds raw signal information as a buffer for the visualizer. The signal preprocessor writes into the file while the visualizer reads from it. Reading and writing into the same file poses a challenge. The visualizer can start reading while the signal preprocessor is writing into it. To resolve this issue, we utilize a file locking mechanism in the signal preprocessor and visualizer. Each of the processes temporarily locks the file, performs its operation, releases the lock, and tries to obtain the lock after a waiting period. The file locking mechanism ensures that only one process can access the file by prohibiting other processes from reading or writing while one process is modifying the file [9]. The feature extractor uses circular buffers to save 0.3 seconds or 75 samples from each channel for extracting 0.2-second or 50-sample long center-aligned windows. The module generates 8 absolute LFCC features where the zeroth cepstral coefficient is replaced by a temporal domain energy term. For extracting the rest of the features, three pipelines are used. The differential energy feature is calculated in a 0.9-second absolute feature window with a frame size of 0.1 seconds. The difference between the maximum and minimum temporal energy terms is calculated in this range. Then, the first derivative or the delta features are calculated using another 0.9-second window. Finally, the second derivative or delta-delta features are calculated using a 0.3-second window [6]. The differential energy for the delta-delta features is not included. In total, we extract 26 features from the raw sample windows which add 1.1 seconds of delay to the system. We used the Temple University Hospital Seizure Database (TUSZ) v1.2.1 for developing the online system [10]. The statistics for this dataset are shown in Table 1. A channel-based LSTM model was trained using the features derived from the train set using the online feature extractor module. A window-based normalization technique was applied to those features. In the offline model, we scale features by normalizing using the maximum absolute value of a channel [11] before applying a sliding window approach. Since the online system has access to a limited amount of data, we normalize based on the observed window. The model uses the feature vectors with a frame size of 1 second and a window size of 7 seconds. We evaluated the model using the offline P1 postprocessor to determine the efficacy of the delayed features and the window-based normalization technique. As shown by the results of experiments 1 and 4 in Table 2, these changes give us a comparable performance to the offline model. The online event decoder module utilizes this trained model for computing probabilities for the seizure and background classes. These posteriors are then postprocessed to remove spurious detections. The online postprocessor receives and saves 8 seconds of class posteriors in a buffer for further processing. It applies multiple heuristic filters (e.g., probability threshold) to make an overall decision by combining events across the channels. These filters evaluate the average confidence, the duration of a seizure, and the channels where the seizures were observed. The postprocessor delivers the label and confidence to the visualizer. The visualizer starts to display the signal as soon as it gets access to the signal file, as shown in Figure 1 using the “Signal File” and “Visualizer” blocks. Once the visualizer receives the label and confidence for the latest epoch from the postprocessor, it overlays the decision and color codes that epoch. The visualizer uses red for seizure with the label SEIZ and green for the background class with the label BCKG. Once the streaming finishes, the system saves three files: a signal file in which the sample frames are saved in the order they were streamed, a time segmented event (TSE) file with the overall decisions and confidences, and a hypotheses (HYP) file that saves the label and confidence for each epoch. The user can plot the signal and decisions using the signal and HYP files with only the visualizer by enabling appropriate options. For comparing the performance of different stages of development, we used the test set of TUSZ v1.2.1 database. It contains 1015 EEG records of varying duration. The any-overlap performance [12] of the overall system shown in Figure 2 is 40.29% sensitivity with 5.77 FAs per 24 hours. For comparison, the previous state-of-the-art model developed on this database performed at 30.71% sensitivity with 6.77 FAs per 24 hours [3]. The individual performances of the deep learning phases are as follows: Phase 1’s (P1) performance is 39.46% sensitivity and 11.62 FAs per 24 hours, and Phase 2 detects seizures with 41.16% sensitivity and 11.69 FAs per 24 hours. We trained an LSTM model with the delayed features and the window-based normalization technique for developing the online system. Using the offline decoder and postprocessor, the model performed at 36.23% sensitivity with 9.52 FAs per 24 hours. The trained model was then evaluated with the online modules. The current performance of the overall online system is 45.80% sensitivity with 28.14 FAs per 24 hours. Table 2 summarizes the performances of these systems. The performance of the online system deviates from the offline P1 model because the online postprocessor fails to combine the events as the seizure probability fluctuates during an event. The modules in the online system add a total of 11.1 seconds of delay for processing each second of the data, as shown in Figure 3. In practice, we also count the time for loading the model and starting the visualizer block. When we consider these facts, the system consumes 15 seconds to display the first hypothesis. The system detects seizure onsets with an average latency of 15 seconds. Implementing an automatic seizure detection model in real time is not trivial. We used a variety of techniques such as the file locking mechanism, multithreading, circular buffers, real-time event decoding, and signal-decision plotting to realize the system. A video demonstrating the system is available at: The final conference submission will include a more detailed analysis of the online performance of each module. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Research reported in this publication was most recently supported by the National Science Foundation Partnership for Innovation award number IIP-1827565 and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program (PA CURE). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official views of any of these organizations. REFERENCES [1] A. Craik, Y. He, and J. L. Contreras-Vidal, “Deep learning for electroencephalogram (EEG) classification tasks: a review,” J. Neural Eng., vol. 16, no. 3, p. 031001, 2019. [2] A. C. Bridi, T. Q. Louro, and R. C. L. Da Silva, “Clinical Alarms in intensive care: implications of alarm fatigue for the safety of patients,” Rev. Lat. Am. Enfermagem, vol. 22, no. 6, p. 1034, 2014. [3] M. Golmohammadi, V. Shah, I. Obeid, and J. Picone, “Deep Learning Approaches for Automatic Seizure Detection from Scalp Electroencephalograms,” in Signal Processing in Medicine and Biology: Emerging Trends in Research and Applications, 1st ed., I. Obeid, I. Selesnick, and J. Picone, Eds. New York, New York, USA: Springer, 2020, pp. 233–274. [4] “CFM Olympic Brainz Monitor.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 17-Jul-2020]. [5] M. L. Scheuer, S. B. Wilson, A. Antony, G. Ghearing, A. Urban, and A. I. Bagic, “Seizure Detection: Interreader Agreement and Detection Algorithm Assessments Using a Large Dataset,” J. Clin. Neurophysiol., 2020. [6] A. Harati, M. Golmohammadi, S. Lopez, I. Obeid, and J. Picone, “Improved EEG Event Classification Using Differential Energy,” in Proceedings of the IEEE Signal Processing in Medicine and Biology Symposium, 2015, pp. 1–4. [7] V. Shah, C. Campbell, I. Obeid, and J. Picone, “Improved Spatio-Temporal Modeling in Automated Seizure Detection using Channel-Dependent Posteriors,” Neurocomputing, 2021. [8] W. Tatum, A. Husain, S. Benbadis, and P. Kaplan, Handbook of EEG Interpretation. New York City, New York, USA: Demos Medical Publishing, 2007. [9] D. P. Bovet and C. Marco, Understanding the Linux Kernel, 3rd ed. O’Reilly Media, Inc., 2005. [10] V. Shah et al., “The Temple University Hospital Seizure Detection Corpus,” Front. Neuroinform., vol. 12, pp. 1–6, 2018. [11] F. Pedregosa et al., “Scikit-learn: Machine Learning in Python,” J. Mach. Learn. Res., vol. 12, pp. 2825–2830, 2011. [12] J. Gotman, D. Flanagan, J. Zhang, and B. Rosenblatt, “Automatic seizure detection in the newborn: Methods and initial evaluation,” Electroencephalogr. Clin. Neurophysiol., vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 356–362, 1997.« less
  4. Despite the potential of reinforcement learning (RL) for building general-purpose robotic systems, training RL agents to solve robotics tasks still remains challenging due to the difficulty of exploration in purely continuous action spaces. Addressing this problem is an active area of research with the majority of focus on improving RL methods via better optimization or more efficient exploration. An alternate but important component to consider improving is the interface of the RL algorithm with the robot. In this work, we manually specify a library of robot action primitives (RAPS), parameterized with arguments that are learned by an RL policy. Thesemore »parameterized primitives are expressive, simple to implement, enable efficient exploration and can be transferred across robots, tasks and environments. We perform a thorough empirical study across challenging tasks in three distinct domains with image input and a sparse terminal reward. We find that our simple change to the action interface substantially improves both the learning efficiency and task performance irrespective of the underlying RL algorithm, significantly outperforming prior methods which learn skills from offline expert data. Code and videos at« less
  5. Robot social navigation is influenced by human preferences and environment-specific scenarios such as elevators and doors, thus necessitating end-user adaptability. State-of-the-art approaches to social navigation fall into two categories: model-based social constraints and learning-based approaches. While effective, these approaches have fundamental limitations – model-based approaches require constraint and parameter tuning to adapt to preferences and new scenarios, while learning-based approaches require reward functions, significant training data, and are hard to adapt to new social scenarios or new domains with limited demonstrations.In this work, we propose Iterative Dimension Informed Program Synthesis (IDIPS) to address these limitations by learning and adapting socialmore »navigation in the form of human-readable symbolic programs. IDIPS works by combining pro-gram synthesis, parameter optimization, predicate repair, and iterative human demonstration to learn and adapt model-free action selection policies from orders of magnitude less data than learning-based approaches. We introduce a novel predicate repair technique that can accommodate previously unseen social scenarios or preferences by growing existing policies.We present experimental results showing that IDIPS: 1) synthesizes effective policies that model user preference, 2) can adapt existing policies to changing preferences, 3) can extend policies to handle novel social scenarios such as locked doors, and 4) generates policies that can be transferred from simulation to real-world robots with minimal effort.« less