Devendra Chaplot, CMU Ph.D. Thesis Defense: Building Intelligent Autonomous Navigation Agents

Devendra Chaplot, CMU Ph.D. Thesis Defense: Building Intelligent Autonomous Navigation Agents

Mar 05, 2021
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Breakthroughs in machine learning in the last decade have led to `digital intelligence', i.e. machine learning models capable of learning from vast amounts of labeled data to perform several digital tasks such as speech recognition, face recognition, machine translation and so on. The goal of this thesis is to make progress towards designing algorithms capable of `physical intelligence', i.e. building intelligent autonomous navigation agents capable of learning to perform complex navigation tasks in the physical world involving visual perception, natural language understanding, reasoning, planning, and sequential decision making. Despite several advances in classical navigation methods in the last few decades, current navigation agents struggle at long-term semantic navigation tasks. In the first part of the thesis, we discuss our work on short-term navigation using end-to-end reinforcement learning to tackle challenges such as obstacle avoidance, semantic perception, language grounding, and reasoning. In the second part, we present a new class of navigation methods based on modular learning and structured explicit map representations, which leverage the strengths of both classical and end-to-end learning methods, to tackle long-term navigation tasks. We show that these methods are able to effectively tackle challenges such as localization, mapping, long-term planning, exploration and learning semantic priors. These modular learning methods are capable of long-term spatial and semantic understanding and achieve state-of-the-art results on various navigation tasks.

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