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  1. Physical interaction between humans and robots can help robots learn to perform complex tasks. The robot arm gains information by observing how the human kinesthetically guides it throughout the task. While prior works focus on how the robot learns, it is equally important that this learning is transparent to the human teacher. Visual displays that show the robot’s uncertainty can potentially communicate this information; however, we hypothesize that visual feedback mechanisms miss out on the physical connection between the human and robot. In this work we present a soft haptic display that wraps around and conforms to the surface of a robot arm, adding a haptic signal at an existing point of contact without significantly affecting the interaction. We demonstrate how soft actuation creates a salient haptic signal while still allowing flexibility in device mounting. Using a psychophysics experiment, we show that users can accurately distinguish inflation levels of the wrapped display with an average Weber fraction of 11.4%. When we place the wrapped display around the arm of a robotic manipulator, users are able to interpret and leverage the haptic signal in sample robot learning tasks, improving identification of areas where the robot needs more training and enabling themore »user to provide better demonstrations. See videos of our device and user studies here: https://youtu.be/tX-2Tqeb9Nw« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 4, 2023
  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. Reward functions are a common way to specify the objective of a robot. As designing reward functions can be extremely challenging, a more promising approach is to directly learn reward functions from human teachers. Importantly, data from human teachers can be collected either passively or actively in a variety of forms: passive data sources include demonstrations (e.g., kinesthetic guidance), whereas preferences (e.g., comparative rankings) are actively elicited. Prior research has independently applied reward learning to these different data sources. However, there exist many domains where multiple sources are complementary and expressive. Motivated by this general problem, we present a framework to integrate multiple sources of information, which are either passively or actively collected from human users. In particular, we present an algorithm that first utilizes user demonstrations to initialize a belief about the reward function, and then actively probes the user with preference queries to zero-in on their true reward. This algorithm not only enables us combine multiple data sources, but it also informs the robot when it should leverage each type of information. Further, our approach accounts for the human’s ability to provide data: yielding user-friendly preference queries which are also theoretically optimal. Our extensive simulated experiments and usermore »studies on a Fetch mobile manipulator demonstrate the superiority and the usability of our integrated framework.« less