ContactNets: Learning Discontinuous Contact Dynamics with Smooth, Implicit Representations
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Robot Learning, PMLR 155:2279-2291, 2021.
Common methods for learning robot dynamics assume motion is continuous, causing unrealistic model predictions for systems undergoing discontinuous impact and stiction behavior. In this work, we resolve this conflict with a smooth, implicit encoding of the structure inherent to contact-induced discontinuities. Our method, ContactNets, learns parameterizations of inter-body signed distance and contact-frame Jacobians, a representation that is compatible with many simulation, control, and planning environments for robotics. We furthermore circumvent the need to differentiate through stiff or non-smooth dynamics with a novel loss function inspired by the principles of complementarity and maximum dissipation. Our method can predict realistic impact, non-penetration, and stiction when trained on 60 seconds of real-world data.