Scaling up Robot Learning by Understanding Internet Videos

This NSF-funded project seeks to develop techniques to understand videos so as to scale up policy learning for robots. We are pursuing a four step approach:

Direct use of videos for policy learning is challenging. They lack action grounding, there is a mismatch in robot and human actions, goals and intents depicted in videos are not known, and demonstrated behavior may be sub-optimal. This motivates this project, where we develop an understanding of videos from the point of view of interaction, and learning techniques and policy architecture that can learn in spite of the aforementioned challenges. Successful completion of the project will lead to the development of navigation and manipulation policies that generalize well.


Diffusion Meets DAgger: Supercharging Eye-in-hand Imitation Learning
Xiaoyu Zhang*, Matthew Chang*, Pranav Kumar, Saurabh Gupta
Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS), 2024

Abstract: A common failure mode for policies trained with imitation is compounding execution errors at test time. When the learned policy encounters states that were not present in the expert demonstrations, the policy fails, leading to degenerate behavior. The Dataset Aggregation, or DAgger approach to this problem simply collects more data to cover these failure states. However, in practice, this is often prohibitively expensive. In this work, we propose Diffusion Meets DAgger (DMD), a method to reap the benefits of DAgger without the cost for eye-in-hand imitation learning problems. Instead of collecting new samples to cover out-of-distribution states, DMD uses recent advances in diffusion models to create these samples with diffusion models. This leads to robust performance from few demonstrations. In experiments conducted for non-prehensile pushing on a Franka Research 3, we show that DMD can achieve a success rate of 80% with as few as 8 expert demonstrations, where naive behavior cloning reaches only 20%. DMD also outperform competing NeRF-based augmentation schemes by 50%.

3D Hand Pose Estimation in Egocentric Images in the Wild
Aditya Prakash, Ruisen Tu, Matthew Chang, Saurabh Gupta
arXiv, 2023

Abstract: We present WildHands, a method for 3D hand pose estimation in egocentric images in the wild. This is challenging due to (a) lack of 3D hand pose annotations for images in the wild, and (b) a form of perspective distortion-induced shape ambiguity that arises in the analysis of crops around hands. For the former, we use auxiliary supervision on in-the-wild data in the form of segmentation masks & grasp labels in addition to 3D supervision available in lab datasets. For the latter, we provide spatial cues about the location of the hand crop in the camera's field of view. Our approach achieves the best 3D hand pose on the ARCTIC leaderboard and outperforms FrankMocap, a popular and robust approach for estimating hand pose in the wild, by 45.3% when evaluated on 2D hand pose on our EPIC-HandKps dataset.

Look Ma, No Hands! Agent-Environment Factorization of Egocentric Videos
Matthew Chang, Aditya Prakash, Saurabh Gupta
Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS), 2023

Abstract: The analysis and use of egocentric videos for robotic tasks is made challenging by occlusion due to the hand and the visual mismatch between the human hand and a robot end-effector. In this sense, the human hand presents a nuisance. However, often hands also provide a valuable signal, e.g. the hand pose may suggest what kind of object is being held. In this work, we propose to extract a factored representation of the scene that separates the agent (human hand) and the environment. This alleviates both occlusion and mismatch while preserving the signal, thereby easing the design of models for downstream robotics tasks. At the heart of this factorization is our proposed Video Inpainting via Diffusion Model (VIDM) that leverages both a prior on real-world images (through a large-scale pre-trained diffusion model) and the appearance of the object in earlier frames of the video (through attention). Our experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of VIDM at improving inpainting quality on egocentric videos and the power of our factored representation for numerous tasks: object detection, 3D reconstruction of manipulated objects, and learning of reward functions, policies, and affordances from videos.

Learning Hand-Held Object Reconstruction from In-The-Wild Videos
Aditya Prakash, Matthew Chang, Matthew Jin, Saurabh Gupta
arXiv, 2023

Abstract: Prior works for reconstructing hand-held objects from a single image rely on direct 3D shape supervision which is challenging to gather in real world at scale. Consequently, these approaches do not generalize well when presented with novel objects in in-the-wild settings. While 3D supervision is a major bottleneck, there is an abundance of in-the-wild raw video data showing hand-object interactions. In this paper, we automatically extract 3D supervision (via multiview 2D supervision) from such raw video data to scale up the learning of models for hand-held object reconstruction. This requires tackling two key challenges: unknown camera pose and occlusion. For the former, we use hand pose (predicted from existing techniques, e.g. FrankMocap) as a proxy for object pose. For the latter, we learn data-driven 3D shape priors using synthetic objects from the ObMan dataset. We use these indirect 3D cues to train occupancy networks that predict the 3D shape of objects from a single RGB image. Our experiments on the MOW and HO3D datasets show the effectiveness of these supervisory signals at predicting the 3D shape for real-world hand-held objects without any direct real-world 3D supervision.

One-shot Visual Imitation via Attributed Waypoints and Demonstration Augmentation
Matthew Chang, Saurabh Gupta
International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2023
webpage / code

Abstract: In this paper, we analyze the behavior of existing techniques and design new solutions for the problem of one-shot visual imitation. In this setting, an agent must solve a novel instance of a novel task given just a single visual demonstration. Our analysis reveals that current methods fall short because of three errors: the DAgger problem arising from purely offline training, last centimeter errors in interacting with objects, and mis-fitting to the task context rather than to the actual task. This motivates the design of our modular approach where we a) separate out task inference (what to do) from task execution (how to do it), and b) develop data augmentation and generation techniques to mitigate mis-fitting. The former allows us to leverage hand-crafted motor primitives for task execution which side-steps the DAgger problem and last centimeter errors, while the latter gets the model to focus on the task rather than the task context. Our model gets 100% and 48% success rates on two recent benchmarks, improving upon the current state-of-the-art by absolute 90% and 20% respectively.

Human Hands as Probes for Interactive Object Understanding
Mohit Goyal, Sahil Modi, Rishabh Goyal, Saurabh Gupta
Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), 2022
webpage / code+data

Abstract: Interactive object understanding, or what we can do to objects and how is a long-standing goal of computer vision. In this paper, we tackle this problem through observation of human hands in in-the-wild egocentric videos. We demonstrate that observation of what human hands interact with and how can provide both the relevant data and the necessary supervision. Attending to hands, readily localizes and stabilizes active objects for learning and reveals places where interactions with objects occur. Analyzing the hands shows what we can do to objects and how. We apply these basic principles on the EPIC-KITCHENS dataset, and successfully learn state-sensitive features, and object affordances (regions of interaction and afforded grasps), purely by observing hands in egocentric videos.

Learning Value Functions from Undirected State-only Experience
Matthew Chang*, Arjun Gupta*, Saurabh Gupta
International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR), 2022
Deep Reinforcement Learning Workshop at NeurIPS, 2021
Offline Reinforcement Learning Workshop at NeurIPS, 2021
webpage / arxiv link / code

Abstract: This paper tackles the problem of learning value functions from undirected state-only experience (state transitions without action labels i.e. (s,s’,r) tuples). We first theoretically characterize the applicability of Q-learning in this setting. We show that tabular Q-learning in discrete Markov decision processes (MDPs) learns the same value function under any arbitrary refinement of the action space. This theoretical result motivates the design of Latent Action Q-learning or LAQ, an offline RL method that can learn effective value functions from state-only experience. Latent Action Q-learning (LAQ) learns value functions using Q-learning on discrete latent actions obtained through a latent-variable future prediction model. We show that LAQ can recover value functions that have high correlation with value functions learned using ground truth actions. Value functions learned using LAQ lead to sample efficient acquisition of goal-directed behavior, can be used with domain-specific low-level controllers, and facilitate transfer across embodiments. Our experiments in 5 environments ranging from 2D grid world to 3D visual navigation in realistic environments demonstrate the benefits of LAQ over simpler alternatives, imitation learning oracles, and competing methods.

Learned Visual Navigation for Under-Canopy Agricultural Robots
Arun Sivakumar, Sahil Modi, Mateus Gasparino, Che Ellis, Andres Velasquez, Girish Chowdhary*, Saurabh Gupta*
Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS), 2021

Abstract: This paper describes a system for visually guided autonomous navigation of under-canopy farm robots. Low-cost under-canopy robots can drive between crop rows under the plant canopy and accomplish tasks that are infeasible for over-the-canopy drones or larger agricultural equipment. However, autonomously navigating them under the canopy presents a number of challenges: unreliable GPS and LiDAR, high cost of sensing, challenging farm terrain, clutter due to leaves and weeds, and large variability in appearance over the season and across crop types. We address these challenges by building a modular system that leverages machine learning for robust and generalizable perception from monocular RGB images from low-cost cameras, and model predictive control for accurate control in challenging terrain. Our system, CropFollow, is able to autonomously drive 485 meters per intervention on average, outperforming a state-of-the-art LiDAR based system (286 meters per intervention) in extensive field testing spanning over 25 km.

Semantic Visual Navigation by Watching YouTube Videos
Matthew Chang, Arjun Gupta, Saurabh Gupta
Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS), 2020
arxiv link / webpage / video / code

Abstract: Semantic cues and statistical regularities in real-world environment layouts can improve efficiency for navigation in novel environments. This paper learns and leverages such semantic cues for navigating to objects of interest in novel environments, by simply watching YouTube videos. This is challenging because YouTube videos do not come with labels for actions or goals, and may not even showcase optimal behavior. Our method tackles these challenges through the use of Q-learning on pseudo-labeled transition quadruples (image, action, next image, reward). We show that such off-policy Q-learning from passive data is able to learn meaningful semantic cues for navigation. These cues, when used in a hierarchical navigation policy, lead to improved efficiency at the ObjectGoal task in visually realistic simulations. We observe a relative improvement of 15-83% over end-to-end RL, behavior cloning, and classical methods, while using minimal direct interaction.





This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-2007035 (Project Title: Scaling up Robot Learning by Understanding Internet Videos, PI: Saurabh Gupta). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.