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ESE & MEAM Seminar – “Enabling Self-sufficient Robot Learning”

March 30 at 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Autonomous exploration and data-efficient learning are important ingredients for helping machine learning handle the complexity and variety of real-world interactions. In this talk, I will describe methods that provide these ingredients and serve as building blocks for enabling self-sufficient robot learning.

First, I will outline a family of methods that facilitate active global exploration. Specifically, they enable ultra data-efficient Bayesian optimization in reality by leveraging experience from simulation to shape the space of decisions. In robotics, these methods enable success with a budget of only 10-20 real robot trials for a range of tasks: bipedal and hexapod walking, task-oriented grasping, and nonprehensile manipulation.

Next, I will describe how to bring simulations closer to reality. This is especially important for scenarios with highly deformable objects, where simulation parameters influence the dynamics in unintuitive ways. The success here hinges on finding a good representation for the state of deformables. I will describe adaptive distribution embeddings that provide an effective way to incorporate noisy state observations into modern Bayesian tools for simulation parameter inference. This novel representation ensures success in estimating posterior distributions over simulation parameters, such as elasticity, friction, and scale, even for scenarios with highly deformable objects and using only a small set of real-world trajectories.

Lastly, I will share a vision of using distribution embeddings to make the space of stochastic policies in reinforcement learning suitable for global optimization. This research direction involves formalizing and learning novel distance metrics on this space and will support principled ways of seeking diverse behaviors. This can unlock truly autonomous learning, where learning agents have incentives to explore, build useful internal representations and discover a variety of effective ways of interacting with the world.

Rika Antonova

Postdoctoral Scholar, Stanford University

Rika is a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University and a recipient of the NSF/CRA Computing Innovation Fellowship. Rika completed her Ph.D. work on data-efficient simulation-to-reality transfer at KTH. Earlier, she obtained a research Master’s degree from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, Rika was a software engineer at Google, first in the Search Personalization group, then in the Character Recognition team (developing open-source OCR engine Tesseract).


March 30
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Event Category:
Event Tags:


Electrical and Systems Engineering
Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics


Raisler Lounge (Room 225), Towne Building
220 South 33rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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