news    views    podcast    learn    |    about    contribute     republish    



The Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR) Lab brings together UC Berkeley researchers across the areas of computer vision, machine learning, natural language processing, planning, and robotics. BAIR includes over two dozen faculty and more than a hundred graduate students pursuing research on fundamental advances in the above areas as well as cross-cutting themes including multi-modal deep learning, human-compatible AI, and connecting AI with other scientific disciplines and the humanities. The BAIR Blog provides an accessible, general-audience medium for BAIR researchers to communicate research findings, perspectives on the field, and various updates. Posts are written by students, post-docs, and faculty in BAIR, and are intended to provide relevant and timely discussion of research findings and results, both to experts and the general audience.

by   -   June 3, 2019

By Avi Singh

Communicating the goal of a task to another person is easy: we can use language, show them an image of the desired outcome, point them to a how-to video, or use some combination of all of these. On the other hand, specifying a task to a robot for reinforcement learning requires substantial effort. Most prior work that has applied deep reinforcement learning to real robots makes uses of specialized sensors to obtain rewards or studies tasks where the robot’s internal sensors can be used to measure reward. For example, using thermal cameras for tracking fluids, or purpose-built computer vision systems for tracking objects. Since such instrumentation needs to be done for any new task that we may wish to learn, it poses a significant bottleneck to widespread adoption of reinforcement learning for robotics, and precludes the use of these methods directly in open-world environments that lack this instrumentation.

by   -   May 27, 2019

By Marvin Zhang and Sharad Vikram

Imagine a robot trying to learn how to stack blocks and push objects using visual inputs from a camera feed. In order to minimize cost and safety concerns, we want our robot to learn these skills with minimal interaction time, but efficient learning from complex sensory inputs such as images is difficult. This work introduces SOLAR, a new model-based reinforcement learning (RL) method that can learn skills – including manipulation tasks on a real Sawyer robot arm – directly from visual inputs with under an hour of interaction. To our knowledge, SOLAR is the most efficient RL method for solving real world image-based robotics tasks.

by   -   May 12, 2019
Figure 1: Our model-based meta reinforcement learning algorithm enables a legged robot to adapt online in the face of an unexpected system malfunction (note the broken front right leg).

By Anusha Nagabandi and Ignasi Clavera

Humans have the ability to seamlessly adapt to changes in their environments: adults can learn to walk on crutches in just a few seconds, people can adapt almost instantaneously to picking up an object that is unexpectedly heavy, and children who can walk on flat ground can quickly adapt their gait to walk uphill without having to relearn how to walk. This adaptation is critical for functioning in the real world.

by   -   April 21, 2019

By Annie Xie

In many animals, tool-use skills emerge from a combination of observational learning and experimentation. For example, by watching one another, chimpanzees can learn how to use twigs to “fish” for insects. Similarly, capuchin monkeys demonstrate the ability to wield sticks as sweeping tools to pull food closer to themselves. While one might wonder whether these are just illustrations of “monkey see, monkey do,” we believe these tool-use abilities indicate a greater level of intelligence.

by   -   April 5, 2019

By Frederik Ebert and Stephen Tian

Guiding our fingers while typing, enabling us to nimbly strike a matchstick, and inserting a key in a keyhole all rely on our sense of touch. It has been shown that the sense of touch is very important for dexterous manipulation in humans. Similarly, for many robotic manipulation tasks, vision alone may not be sufficient – often, it may be difficult to resolve subtle details such as the exact position of an edge, shear forces or surface textures at points of contact, and robotic arms and fingers can block the line of sight between a camera and its quarry. Augmenting robots with this crucial sense, however, remains a challenging task.

Our goal is to provide a framework for learning how to perform tactile servoing, which means precisely relocating an object based on tactile information. To provide our robot with tactile feedback, we utilize a custom-built tactile sensor, based on similar principles as the GelSight sensor developed at MIT. The sensor is composed of a deformable, elastomer-based gel, backlit by three colored LEDs, and provides high-resolution RGB images of contact at the gel surface. Compared to other sensors, this tactile sensor sensor naturally provides geometric information in the form of rich visual information from which attributes such as force can be inferred. Previous work using similar sensors has leveraged the this kind of tactile sensor on tasks such as learning how to grasp, improving success rates when grasping a variety of objects.

by   -   February 19, 2019

By Tijana Zrnic

“Scientific research has changed the world. Now it needs to change itself. – The Economist, 2013

There has been a growing concern about the validity of scientific findings. A multitude of journals, papers and reports have recognized the ever smaller number of replicable scientific studies. In 2016, one of the giants of scientific publishing, Nature, surveyed about 1,500 researchers across many different disciplines, asking for their stand on the status of reproducibility in their area of research. One of the many takeaways to the worrisome results of this survey is the following: 90% of the respondents agreed that there is a reproducibility crisis, and the overall top answer to boosting reproducibility was “better understanding of statistics”. Indeed, many factors contributing to the explosion of irreproducible research stem from the neglect of the fact that statistics is no longer as static as it was in the first half of the 20th century, when statistical hypothesis testing came into prominence as a theoretically rigorous proposal for making valid discoveries with high confidence.

by   -   February 12, 2019

By Rohin Shah and Dmitrii Krasheninnikov

It would be great if we could all have household robots do our chores for us. Chores are tasks that we want done to make our houses cater more to our preferences; they are a way in which we want our house to be different from the way it currently is. However, most “different” states are not very desirable:

Surely our robot wouldn’t be so dumb as to go around breaking stuff when we ask it to clean our house? Unfortunately, AI systems trained with reinforcement learning only optimize features specified in the reward function and are indifferent to anything we might’ve inadvertently left out. Generally, it is easy to get the reward wrong by forgetting to include preferences for things that should stay the same, since we are so used to having these preferences satisfied, and there are so many of them. Consider the room below, and imagine that we want a robot waiter that serves people at the dining table efficiently. We might implement this using a reward function that provides 1 reward whenever the robot serves a dish, and use discounting so that the robot is incentivized to be efficient. What could go wrong with such a reward function? How would we need to modify the reward function to take this into account? Take a minute to think about it.

by   -   December 16, 2018

By Tuomas Haarnoja, Vitchyr Pong, Kristian Hartikainen, Aurick Zhou, Murtaza Dalal, and Sergey Levine

We are announcing the release of our state-of-the-art off-policy model-free reinforcement learning algorithm, soft actor-critic (SAC). This algorithm has been developed jointly at UC Berkeley and Google Brain, and we have been using it internally for our robotics experiment. Soft actor-critic is, to our knowledge, one of the most efficient model-free algorithms available today, making it especially well-suited for real-world robotic learning. In this post, we will benchmark SAC against state-of-the-art model-free RL algorithms and showcase a spectrum of real-world robot examples, ranging from manipulation to locomotion. We also release our implementation of SAC, which is particularly designed for real-world robotic systems.

by   -   December 4, 2018

By Chelsea Finn∗, Frederik Ebert∗, Sudeep Dasari, Annie Xie, Alex Lee, and Sergey Levine

With very little explicit supervision and feedback, humans are able to learn a wide range of motor skills by simply interacting with and observing the world through their senses. While there has been significant progress towards building machines that can learn complex skills and learn based on raw sensory information such as image pixels, acquiring large and diverse repertoires of general skills remains an open challenge. Our goal is to build a generalist: a robot that can perform many different tasks, like arranging objects, picking up toys, and folding towels, and can do so with many different objects in the real world without re-learning for each object or task.

by   -   November 14, 2018

By Esther Rolf∗, David Fridovich-Keil∗, and Max Simchowitz

In many tasks in machine learning, it is common to want to answer questions given fixed, pre-collected datasets. In some applications, however, we are not given data a priori; instead, we must collect the data we require to answer the questions of interest.

by   -   October 24, 2018

By Daniel Seita, Jeff Mahler, Mike Danielczuk, Matthew Matl, and Ken Goldberg

This post explores two independent innovations and the potential for combining them in robotics. Two years before the AlexNet results on ImageNet were released in 2012, Microsoft rolled out the Kinect for the X-Box. This class of low-cost depth sensors emerged just as Deep Learning boosted Artificial Intelligence by accelerating performance of hyper-parametric function approximators leading to surprising advances in image classification, speech recognition, and language translation.

by   -   October 18, 2018

By Xue Bin (Jason) Peng and Angjoo Kanazawa

Whether it’s everyday tasks like washing our hands or stunning feats of acrobatic prowess, humans are able to learn an incredible array of skills by watching other humans. With the proliferation of publicly available video data from sources like YouTube, it is now easier than ever to find video clips of whatever skills we are interested in.

by   -   September 10, 2018


In this post, we demonstrate how deep reinforcement learning (deep RL) can be used to learn how to control dexterous hands for a variety of manipulation tasks. We discuss how such methods can learn to make use of low-cost hardware, can be implemented efficiently, and how they can be complemented with techniques such as demonstrations and simulation to accelerate learning.

by   -   August 9, 2018

By John Miller

An earlier version of this post was published on Off the Convex Path. It is reposted here with the author’s permission.

In the last few years, deep learning practitioners have proposed a litany of different sequence models. Although recurrent neural networks were once the tool of choice, now models like the autoregressive Wavenet or the Transformer are replacing RNNs on a diverse set of tasks. In this post, we explore the trade-offs between recurrent and feed-forward models.

by   -   June 29, 2018

By Tianhe Yu and Chelsea Finn

Learning a new skill by observing another individual, the ability to imitate, is a key part of intelligence in human and animals. Can we enable a robot to do the same, learning to manipulate a new object by simply watching a human manipulating the object just as in the video below?