Learning Dexterous Manipulation Policies from Experience and Imitation

15 Nov 2016  ·  Vikash Kumar, Abhishek Gupta, Emanuel Todorov, Sergey Levine ·

We explore learning-based approaches for feedback control of a dexterous five-finger hand performing non-prehensile manipulation. First, we learn local controllers that are able to perform the task starting at a predefined initial state. These controllers are constructed using trajectory optimization with respect to locally-linear time-varying models learned directly from sensor data. In some cases, we initialize the optimizer with human demonstrations collected via teleoperation in a virtual environment. We demonstrate that such controllers can perform the task robustly, both in simulation and on the physical platform, for a limited range of initial conditions around the trained starting state. We then consider two interpolation methods for generalizing to a wider range of initial conditions: deep learning, and nearest neighbors. We find that nearest neighbors achieve higher performance. Nevertheless, the neural network has its advantages: it uses only tactile and proprioceptive feedback but no visual feedback about the object (i.e. it performs the task blind) and learns a time-invariant policy. In contrast, the nearest neighbors method switches between time-varying local controllers based on the proximity of initial object states sensed via motion capture. While both generalization methods leave room for improvement, our work shows that (i) local trajectory-based controllers for complex non-prehensile manipulation tasks can be constructed from surprisingly small amounts of training data, and (ii) collections of such controllers can be interpolated to form more global controllers. Results are summarized in the supplementary video: https://youtu.be/E0wmO6deqjo

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