​Learning to Control Self-Assembling Morphologies: A Study of Generalization via Modularity

NeurIPS 2019

​Learning to Control Self-Assembling Morphologies: A Study of Generalization via Modularity

Dec 14, 2019
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Contemporary sensorimotor learning approaches typically start with an existing complex agent (e.g., a robotic arm), which they learn to control. In contrast, this paper investigates a modular co-evolution strategy: a collection of primitive agents learns to dynamically self-assemble into composite bodies while also learning to coordinate their behavior to control these bodies. Each primitive agent consists of a limb with a motor attached at one end. Limbs may choose to link up to form collectives. When a limb initiates a link-up action and there is another limb nearby, the latter is magnetically connected to the 'parent' limb's motor. This forms a new single agent, which may further link with other agents. In this way, complex morphologies can emerge, controlled by a policy whose architecture is in explicit correspondence with the morphology. We evaluate the performance of these 'dynamic' and 'modular' agents in simulated environments. We demonstrate better generalization to test-time changes both in the environment, as well as in the agent morphology, compared to static and monolithic baselines. Project videos and code are available at https://pathak22.github.io/modular-assemblies/ Speakers: Chris Lu, Deepak Pathak

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