Learning Visible Connectivity Dynamics for Cloth Smoothing
Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Robot Learning, PMLR 164:256-266, 2022.
Robotic manipulation of cloth remains challenging due to the complex dynamics of cloth, lack of a low-dimensional state representation, and self-occlusions. In contrast to previous model-based approaches that learn a pixel-based dynamics model or a compressed latent vector dynamics, we propose to learn a particle-based dynamics model from a partial point cloud observation. To overcome the challenges of partial observability, we infer which visible points are connected on the underlying cloth mesh. We then learn a dynamics model over this visible connectivity graph. Compared to previous learning-based approaches, our model poses strong inductive bias with its particle based representation for learning the underlying cloth physics; it can generalize to cloths with novel shapes; it is invariant to visual features; and the predictions can be more easily visualized. We show that our method greatly outperforms previous state-of-the-art model-based and model-free reinforcement learning methods in simulation. Furthermore, we demonstrate zero-shot sim-to-real transfer where we deploy the model trained in simulation on a Franka arm and show that the model can successfully smooth cloths of different materials, geometries and colors from crumpled configurations. Videos can be found in the supplement and on our anonymous project website.