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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 13, 2024
  2. We propose SCALE, an approach for discovering and learning a di- verse set of interpretable robot skills from a limited dataset. Rather than learning a single skill which may fail to capture all the modes in the data, we first iden- tify the different modes via causal reasoning and learn a separate skill for each of them. Our main insight is to associate each mode with a unique set of causally relevant context variables that are discovered by performing causal interventions in simulation. This enables data partitioning based on the causal processes that generated the data, and then compressed skills that ignore the irrelevant variables can be trained. We model each robot skill as a Regional Compressed Option, which extends the options framework by associating a causal process and its rele- vant variables with the option. Modeled as the skill Data Generating Region, each causal process is local in nature and hence valid over only a subset of the context space. We demonstrate our approach for two representative manipulation tasks: block stacking and peg-in-hole insertion under uncertainty. Our experiments show that our approach yields diverse skills that are compact, robust to domain shifts, and suitable for sim-to-real transfer. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 13, 2024
  3. Posing high-contact interactions is challenging and time-consuming, with hand-object interactions being especially difficult due to the large number of degrees of freedom (DOF) of the hand and the fact that humans are experts at judging hand poses. This paper addresses this challenge by elevating contact areas to first-class primitives. We provideend-to-end art-directable(EAD) tools to model interactions based on contact areas, directly manipulate contact areas, and compute corresponding poses automatically. To make these operations intuitive and fast, we present a novel axis-based contact model that supports real-time approximately isometry-preserving operations on triangulated surfaces, permits movement between surfaces, and is both robust and scalable to large areas. We show that use of our contact model facilitates high quality posing even for unconstrained, high-DOF custom rigs intended for traditional keyframe-based animation pipelines. We additionally evaluate our approach with comparisons to prior art, ablation studies, user studies, qualitative assessments, and extensions to full-body interaction.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 31, 2024
  5. Robots deployed in many real-world settings need to be able to acquire new skills and solve new tasks over time. Prior works on planning with skills often make assumptions on the structure of skills and tasks, such as subgoal skills, shared skill implementations, or task-specific plan skeletons, which limit adaptation to new skills and tasks. By contrast, we propose doing task planning by jointly searching in the space of parameterized skills using high-level skill effect models learned in simulation. We use an iterative training procedure to efficiently generate relevant data to train such models. Our approach allows flexible skill parameterizations and task specifications to facilitate lifelong learning in general-purpose domains. Experiments demonstrate the ability of our planner to integrate new skills in a lifelong manner, finding new task strategies with lower costs in both train and test tasks. We additionally show that our method can transfer to the real world without further fine-tuning. 
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  6. The design and fabrication of soft robot hands is still a time-consuming and difficult process. Advances in rapid prototyping have significantly accelerated the fabrication process while introducing new complexities into the design process. In this work, we present an approach that utilizes novel low-cost fabrication techniques in conjunction with design tools to help soft hand designers systematically take advantage of multi-material 3D printing to create dexterous soft robotic hands. While very low-cost and lightweight, we show that generated designs are highly durable, surprisingly strong, and capable of dexterous grasping. 
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  7. Different models can provide differing levels of fidelity when a robot is planning. Analytical models are often fast to evaluate but only work in limited ranges of conditions. Meanwhile, physics simulators are effective at modeling complex interactions between objects but are typically more computationally expensive. Learning when to switch between the various models can greatly improve the speed of planning and task success reliability. In this work, we learn model deviation estimators (MDEs) to predict the error between real-world states and the states outputted by transition models. MDEs can be used to define a model precondition that describes which transitions are accurately modeled. We then propose a planner that uses the learned model preconditions to switch between various models in order to use models in conditions where they are accurate, prioritizing faster models when possible. We evaluate our method on two real-world tasks: placing a rod into a box and placing a rod into a closed drawer. 
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  8. In this work, we investigate a form of dynamic contact-rich locomotion in which a robot pushes off from obstacles in order to move through its environment. We present a reflex-based approach that switches between optimized hand- crafted reflex controllers and produces smooth and predictable motions. In contrast to previous work, our approach does not rely on periodic movements, complex models of robot and contact dynamics, or extensive hand tuning. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach and evaluate its performance compared to a standard model-free RL algorithm. We identify continuous clusters of similar behaviours, which allows us to successfully transfer different push-off motions directly from simulation to a physical robot without further retraining. 
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