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  1. Shared autonomy enables robots to infer user intent and assist in accomplishing it. But when the user wants to do a new task that the robot does not know about, shared autonomy will hinder their performance by attempting to assist them with something that is not their intent. Our key idea is that the robot can detect when its repertoire of intents is insufficient to explain the user’s input, and give them back control. This then enables the robot to observe unhindered task execution, learn the new intent behind it, and add it to this repertoire. We demonstrate with both a case study and a user study that our proposed method maintains good performance when the human’s intent is in the robot’s repertoire, outperforms prior shared autonomy approaches when it isn’t, and successfully learns new skills, enabling efficient lifelong learning for confidence-based shared autonomy.
  2. When a robot performs a task next to a human, physical interaction is inevitable: the human might push, pull, twist, or guide the robot. The state of the art treats these interactions as disturbances that the robot should reject or avoid. At best, these robots respond safely while the human interacts; but after the human lets go, these robots simply return to their original behavior. We recognize that physical human–robot interaction (pHRI) is often intentional: the human intervenes on purpose because the robot is not doing the task correctly. In this article, we argue that when pHRI is intentional it is also informative: the robot can leverage interactions to learn how it should complete the rest of its current task even after the person lets go. We formalize pHRI as a dynamical system, where the human has in mind an objective function they want the robot to optimize, but the robot does not get direct access to the parameters of this objective: they are internal to the human. Within our proposed framework human interactions become observations about the true objective. We introduce approximations to learn from and respond to pHRI in real-time. We recognize that not all human corrections aremore »perfect: often users interact with the robot noisily, and so we improve the efficiency of robot learning from pHRI by reducing unintended learning. Finally, we conduct simulations and user studies on a robotic manipulator to compare our proposed approach with the state of the art. Our results indicate that learning from pHRI leads to better task performance and improved human satisfaction.

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  3. As humans interact with autonomous agents to perform increasingly complicated, potentially risky tasks, it is important to be able to efficiently evaluate an agent’s performance and correctness. In this paper we formalize and theoretically analyze the problem of efficient value alignment verification: how to efficiently test whether the behavior of another agent is aligned with a human’s values. The goal is to construct a kind of “driver’s test” that a human can give to any agent which will verify value alignment via a minimal number of queries. We study alignment verification problems with both idealized humans that have an explicit reward function as well as problems where they have implicit values. We analyze verification of exact value alignment for rational agents and propose and analyze heuristic and approximate value alignment verification tests in a wide range of gridworlds and a continuous autonomous driving domain. Finally, we prove that there exist sufficient conditions such that we can verify exact and approximate alignment across an infinite set of test environments via a constant- query-complexity alignment test.
  4. The difficulty in specifying rewards for many real world problems has led to an increased focus on learning rewards from human feedback, such as demonstrations. However, there are often many different reward functions that explain the human feedback, leaving agents with uncertainty over what the true reward function is. While most policy optimization approaches handle this uncertainty by optimizing for expected performance, many applications demand risk-averse behavior. We derive a novel policy gradient-style robust optimization approach, PG-BROIL, that optimizes a soft-robust objective that balances expected performance and risk. To the best of our knowledge, PG-BROIL is the first policy optimization algorithm robust to a distribution of reward hypotheses which can scale to continuous MDPs. Results suggest that PG-BROIL can produce a family of behaviors ranging from risk-neutral to risk-averse and outperforms state-of-the-art imitation learning algorithms when learning from ambiguous demonstrations by hedging against uncertainty, rather than seeking to uniquely identify the demonstrator’s reward function.