Learning to Poke by Poking: Experiential Learning of Intuitive Physics

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We investigate an experiential learning paradigm for acquiring an internal model of intuitive physics. Our model is evaluated on a real-world robotic manipulation task that requires displacing objects to target locations by poking. The robot gathered over 400 hours of experience by executing more than 50K pokes on different objects. We propose a novel approach based on deep neural networks for modeling the dynamics of robot's interactions directly from images, by jointly estimating forward and inverse models of dynamics. The inverse model objective provides supervision to construct informative visual features, which the forward model can then predict and in turn regularize the feature space for the inverse model. The interplay between these two objectives creates useful, accurate models that can then be used for multi-step decision making. This formulation has the additional benefit that it is possible to learn forward models in an abstract feature space and thus alleviate the need of predicting pixels. Our experiments show that this joint modeling approach outperforms alternative methods. We also demonstrate that active data collection using the learned model further improves performance.

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