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  1. Aleksandra Faust, David Hsu (Ed.)
    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 real robot without task-specific training, where both the visual input and action space output are high dimensional. Code is available in the supplement. 
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  2. 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 of 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. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. A robot can now grasp an object more effectively than ever before, but once it has the object what happens next? We show that a mild relaxation of the task and workspace constraints implicit in existing object grasping datasets can cause neural network based grasping algorithms to fail on even a simple block stacking task when executed under more realistic circumstances. To address this, we introduce the JHU CoSTAR Block Stacking Dataset (BSD), where a robot interacts with 5.1 cm colored blocks to complete an order-fulfillment style block stacking task. It contains dynamic scenes and real time-series data in a less constrained environment than comparable datasets. There are nearly 12,000 stacking attempts and over 2 million frames of real data. We discuss the ways in which this dataset provides a valuable resource for a broad range of other topics of investigation. We find that hand-designed neural networks that work on prior datasets do not generalize to this task. Thus, to establish a baseline for this dataset, we demonstrate an automated search of neural network based models using a novel multiple-input HyperTree MetaModel, and find a final model which makes reasonable 3D pose predictions for grasping and stacking on our dataset. The CoSTAR BSD, code, and instructions are available at 
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  5. How can we enable users to create effective, perception-driven task plans for collaborative robots? We conducted a 35-person user study with the Behavior Tree-based CoSTAR system to determine which strategies for end user creation of generalizable robot task plans are most usable and effective. CoSTAR allows domain experts to author complex, perceptually grounded task plans for collaborative robots. As a part of CoSTAR's wide range of capabilities, it allows users to specify SmartMoves: abstract goals such as "pick up component A from the right side of the table." Users were asked to perform pick-and-place assembly tasks with either SmartMoves or one of three simpler baseline versions of CoSTAR. Overall, participants found CoSTAR to be highly usable, with an average System Usability Scale score of 73.4 out of 100. SmartMove also helped users perform tasks faster and more effectively; all SmartMove users completed the first two tasks, while not all users completed the tasks using the other strategies. SmartMove users showed better performance for incorporating perception across all three tasks. 
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  6. For collaborative robots to become useful, end users who are not robotics experts must be able to instruct them to perform a variety of tasks. With this goal in mind, we developed a system for end‐user creation of robust task plans with a broad range of capabilities. CoSTAR: the Collaborative System for Task Automation and Recognition} is our winning entry in the 2016 KUKA Innovation Award competition at the Hannover Messe trade show, which this year focused on Flexible Manufacturing. CoSTAR is unique in how it creates natural abstractions that use perception to represent the world in a way users can both understand and utilize to author capable and robust task plans. Our Behavior Tree‐based task editor integrates high‐level information from known object segmentation and pose estimation with spatial reasoning and robot actions to create robust task plans. We describe the crossplatform design and implementation of this system on multiple industrial robots and evaluate its suitability for a wide variety of use cases. 
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