Abstract: Deep reinforcement learning has emerged as a popular and powerful way to develop locomotion controllers for quadruped robots. Common approaches have largely focused on learning actions directly in joint space, or learning to modify and offset foot positions produced by trajectory generators. Both approaches typically require careful reward shaping and training for millions of time steps, and with trajectory generators introduce human bias into the resulting control policies. In this paper, we instead explore learning foot positions in Cartesian space, which we track with impedance control, for a task of running as fast as possible subject to environmental disturbances. Compared with other action spaces, we observe less needed reward shaping, much improved sample efficiency, the emergence of natural gaits such as galloping and bounding, and ease of sim-to-sim transfer. Policies can be learned in only a few million time steps, even for challenging tasks of running over rough terrain with loads of over 100% of the nominal quadruped mass. Training occurs in PyBullet, and we perform a sim-to-sim transfer to Gazebo, where our quadruped is able to run at over 4 m/s without a load, and 3.5 m/s with a 10 kg load, which is over 83% of the nominal quadruped mass.
Authors: Guillaume Bellegarda, Quan Nguyen (University of Southern California)