Towards Disturbance-Free Visual Mobile Manipulation

Tianwei Ni, Kiana Ehsani, Luca Weihs, Jordi Salvador; Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV), 2023, pp. 5219-5231


Deep reinforcement learning has shown promising results on an abundance of robotic tasks in simulation, including visual navigation and manipulation. Prior work generally aims to build embodied agents that solve their assigned tasks as quickly as possible, while largely ignoring the problems caused by collision with objects during interaction. This lack of prioritization is understandable: there is no inherent cost in breaking virtual objects. As a result, "well-trained" agents frequently collide with objects before achieving their primary goals, a behavior that would be catastrophic in the real world. In this paper, we study the problem of training agents to complete the task of visual mobile manipulation in the ManipulaTHOR environment while avoiding unnecessary collision (disturbance) with objects. We formulate disturbance avoidance as a penalty term in the reward function, but find that directly training with such penalized rewards often results in agents being unable to escape poor local optima. Instead, we propose a two-stage training curriculum where an agent is first allowed to freely explore and build basic competencies without penalization, after which a disturbance penalty is introduced to refine the agent's behavior. Results on testing scenes show that our curriculum not only avoids these poor local optima, but also leads to 10% absolute gains in success rate without disturbance, compared to our state-of-the-art baselines. Moreover, our curriculum is significantly more performant than a safe RL algorithm that casts collision avoidance as a constraint. Finally, we propose a novel disturbance-prediction auxiliary task that accelerates learning.

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@InProceedings{Ni_2023_WACV, author = {Ni, Tianwei and Ehsani, Kiana and Weihs, Luca and Salvador, Jordi}, title = {Towards Disturbance-Free Visual Mobile Manipulation}, booktitle = {Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV)}, month = {January}, year = {2023}, pages = {5219-5231} }