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  1. We study the task of learning state representations from potentially high-dimensional observations, with the goal of controlling an unknown partially observable system. We pursue a direct latent model learning approach, where a dynamic model in some latent state space is learned by predicting quantities directly related to planning (e.g., costs) without reconstructing the observations. In particular, we focus on an intuitive cost-driven state representation learning method for solving Linear Quadratic Gaussian (LQG) control, one of the most fundamental partially observable control problems. As our main results, we establish finite-sample guarantees of finding a near-optimal state representation function and a near-optimal controller using the directly learned latent model. To the best of our knowledge, despite various empirical successes, prior to this work it was unclear if such a cost-driven latent model learner enjoys finite-sample guarantees. Our work underscores the value of predicting multi-step costs, an idea that is key to our theory, and notably also an idea that is known to be empirically valuable for learning state representations. 
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  2. Understanding the geometry of collision-free configuration space (C-free) in the presence of Cartesian-space obstacles is an essential ingredient for collision-free motion planning. While it is possible to check for collisions at a point using standard algorithms, to date no practical method exists for computing C-free regions with rigorous certificates due to the complexity of mapping Cartesian-space obstacles through the kinematics. In this work, we present the first to our knowledge rigorous method for approximately decomposing a rational parametrization of C-free into certified polyhedral regions. Our method, called C-Iris (C-space Iterative Regional Inflation by Semidefinite programming), generates large, convex polytopes in a rational parameterization of the configuration space which are rigorously certified to be collision-free. Such regions have been shown to be useful for both optimization-based and randomized motion planning. Based on convex optimization, our method works in arbitrary dimensions, only makes assumptions about the convexity of the obstacles in the 3D Cartesian space, and is fast enough to scale to realistic problems in manipulation. We demonstrate our algorithm’s ability to fill a non-trivial amount of collision-free C-space in several 2-DOF examples where the C-space can be visualized, as well as the scalability of our algorithm on a 7-DOF KUKA iiwa, a 6-DOF UR3e, and 12-DOF bimanual manipulators. An implementation of our algorithm is open-sourced in Drake . We furthermore provide examples of our algorithm in interactive Python notebooks .

     
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  3. null (Ed.)
    Balancing performance and safety is crucial to deploying autonomous vehicles in multi-agent environments. In particular, autonomous racing is a domain that penalizes safe but conservative policies, highlighting the need for robust, adaptive strategies. Current approaches either make simplifying assumptions about other agents or lack robust mechanisms for online adaptation. This work makes algorithmic contributions to both challenges. First, to generate a realistic, diverse set of opponents, we develop a novel method for self-play based on replica-exchange Markov chain Monte Carlo. Second, we propose a distributionally robust bandit optimization procedure that adaptively adjusts risk aversion relative to uncertainty in beliefs about opponents’ behaviors. We rigorously quantify the tradeoffs in performance and robustness when approximating these computations in real-time motion-planning, and we demonstrate our methods experimentally on autonomous vehicles that achieve scaled speeds comparable to Formula One racecars. 
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