Sampling Based Exploration for Reinforcement Learning of Dexterous Manipulation

Robotics Science and Systems 2023

Columbia University

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We present a novel method for achieving dexterous manipulation of complex objects, while simultaneously securing the object without the use of passive support surfaces. We posit that a key difficulty for training such policies in a Reinforcement Learning framework is the difficulty of exploring the problem state space, as the accessible regions of this space form a complex structure along manifolds of a high-dimensional space. To address this challenge, we use two versions of the non-holonomic Rapidly-Exploring Random Trees algorithm; one version is more general, but requires explicit use of the environment’s transition function, while the second version uses manipulation-specific kinematic constraints to attain better sample efficiency. In both cases, we use states found via sampling-based exploration to generate reset distributions that enable training control policies under full dynamic constraints via model-free Reinforcement Learning. We show that these policies are effective at manipulation problems of higher difficulty than previously shown, and also transfer effectively to real robots.

For more details of our method please view the preprint on arXiv. More supporting visualizations can be found in the video below.


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