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Robotic object manipulation via hierarchical and affordance learning

Yang, Xintong ORCID: 2023. Robotic object manipulation via hierarchical and affordance learning. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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With the rise of computation power and machine learning techniques, a shift of research interest is happening to roboticists. Against this background, this thesis seeks to develop or enhance learning-based grasping and manipulation systems. This thesis first proposes a method, named A2, to improve the sample efficiency of end-to-end deep reinforcement learning algorithms for long horizon, multi-step and sparse reward manipulation. The named A2 comes from the fact that it uses Abstract demonstrations to guide the learning process and Adaptively adjusts exploration according to online performances. Experiments in a series of multi-step grid world tasks and manipulation tasks demonstrate significant performance gains over baselines. Then, this thesis develops a hierarchical reinforcement learning approach towards solving the long-horizon manipulation tasks. Specifically, the proposed universal option framework integrates the knowledge-sharing advantage of goal-conditioned reinforcement learning into hierarchical reinforcement learning. An analysis of the parallel training non-stationarity problem is also conducted, and the A2 method is employed to address the issue. Experiments in a series of continuous multi-step, multi-outcome block stacking tasks demonstrate significant performance gains as well as reductions of memory and repeated computation over baselines. Finally, this thesis studies the interplay between grasp generation and manipulation motion generation, arguing that selecting a good grasp before manipulation is essential for contact-rich manipulation tasks. A theory of general affordances based on the reinforcement learning paradigm is developed and used to represent the relationship between grasp generation and manipulation performances. This leads to the general affordance-aware manipulation framework, which selects task-agnostic grasps for downstream manipulation based on the predicted manipulation performances. Experiments on a series of contact-rich hook separation tasks prove the effectiveness of the proposed framework and showcase significant performance gains by filtering away unsatisfactory grasps.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Engineering
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1) Robotic manipulation 2) Deep reinforcement learning 3) Hierarchical reinforcement learning 4) Affordance learning 5) General affordance theory 6) Task oriented grasping and manipulation
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 September 2023
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2023 11:03

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