Learning of Long-Horizon Sparse-Reward Robotic Manipulator Tasks with Base Controllers

24 Nov 2020  ·  Guangming Wang, Minjian Xin, Wenhua Wu, Zhe Liu, Hesheng Wang ·

Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) enables robots to perform some intelligent tasks end-to-end. However, there are still many challenges for long-horizon sparse-reward robotic manipulator tasks. On the one hand, a sparse-reward setting causes exploration inefficient. On the other hand, exploration using physical robots is of high cost and unsafe. In this paper, we propose a method of learning long-horizon sparse-reward tasks utilizing one or more existing traditional controllers named base controllers in this paper. Built upon Deep Deterministic Policy Gradients (DDPG), our algorithm incorporates the existing base controllers into stages of exploration, value learning, and policy update. Furthermore, we present a straightforward way of synthesizing different base controllers to integrate their strengths. Through experiments ranging from stacking blocks to cups, it is demonstrated that the learned state-based or image-based policies steadily outperform base controllers. Compared to previous works of learning from demonstrations, our method improves sample efficiency by orders of magnitude and improves the performance. Overall, our method bears the potential of leveraging existing industrial robot manipulation systems to build more flexible and intelligent controllers.

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