Accelerated Sim-to-Real Deep Reinforcement Learning: Learning Collision Avoidance from Human Player
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Abstract: This paper presents a sensor-level mapless collision avoidance algorithm for use in mobile robots that map raw sensor data to linear and angular velocities and navigate in an unknown environment without a map. An efficient training strategy is proposed to allow a robot to learn from both human experience data and self-exploratory data. A game format simulation framework is designed to allow the human player to tele-operate the mobile robot to a goal and human action is also scored using the reward function. Both human player data and self-playing data are sampled using prioritized experience replay algorithm. The proposed algorithm and training strategy have been evaluated in two different experimental configurations: \textit{Environment 1}, a simulated cluttered environment, and \textit{Environment 2}, a simulated corridor environment, to investigate the performance. It was demonstrated that the proposed method achieved the same level of reward using only 16\% of the training steps required by the standard Deep Deterministic Policy Gradient (DDPG) method in Environment 1 and 20\% of that in Environment 2. In the evaluation of 20 random missions, the proposed method achieved no collision in less than 2~h and 2.5~h of training time in the two Gazebo environments respectively. The method also generated smoother trajectories than DDPG. The proposed method has also been implemented on a real robot in the real-world environment for performance evaluation. We can confirm that the trained model with the simulation software can be directly applied into the real-world scenario without further fine-tuning, further demonstrating its higher robustness than DDPG. Authors: Hanlin Niu, Ze Ji, Farshad Arvin, Barry Lennox, Hujun Yin, Joaquin Carrasco (University of Manchester)

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