Deep Kernels for Optimizing Locomotion Controllers


Rika Antonova, Akshara Rai, Christopher G. Atkeson ;
Proceedings of the 1st Annual Conference on Robot Learning, PMLR 78:47-56, 2017.


Sample efficiency is important when optimizing parameters of locomotion controllers, since hardware experiments are time consuming and expensive. Bayesian Optimization, a sample-efficient optimization framework, has recently been widely applied to address this problem, but further improvements in sample efficiency are needed for practical applicability to real-world robots and high-dimensional controllers. To address this, prior work has proposed using domain expertise for constructing custom distance metrics for locomotion. In this work we show how to learn such a distance metric automatically. We use a neural network to learn an informed distance metric from data obtained in high-fidelity simulations. We conduct experiments on two different controllers and robot architectures. First, we demonstrate improvement in sample efficiency when optimizing a 5-dimensional controller on the ATRIAS robot hardware. We then conduct simulation experiments to optimize a 16-dimensional controller for a 7-link robot model and obtain significant improvements even when optimizing in perturbed environments. This demonstrates that our approach is able to enhance sample efficiency for two different controllers, hence is a fitting candidate for further experiments on hardware in the future.

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