Beyond Geometric Path Planning: Learning Context-Driven Trajectory Preferences via Sub-optimal Feedback

Ashesh Jain, Shikhar Sharma, Ashutosh Saxena

Robot Learning Lab
Department of Computer Science
Cornell University


We consider the problem of learning preferences over trajectories for mobile manipulators such as personal robots and assembly line robots. The preferences we learn are more intricate than those arising from simple geometric constraints on robot's trajectory, such as distance of the robot from human etc. Our preferences are rather governed by the surrounding context of various objects and human interactions in the environment. Such preferences makes the problem challenging because the criterion of defining a good trajectory now varies with the task, with the environment and across the users. Furthermore, demonstrating optimal trajectories (e.g., learning from expert's demonstrations) is often challenging and non-intuitive on high degrees of freedom manipulators. In this work, we propose an approach that requires a non-expert user to only incrementally improve the trajectory currently proposed by the robot. We implement our algorithm on two high degree-of-freedom robots, PR2 and Baxter, and present three intuitive mechanisms for providing such incremental feedback. In our experimental evaluation we consider two context rich settings - household chores and grocery store checkout - and show that users are able to train the robot with just a few feedbacks (taking only a few minutes). Despite receiving sub-optimal feedback from non-expert users, our algorithm enjoys theoretical bounds on regret that match the asymptotic rates of optimal trajectory algorithms.


  title     = {Beyond Geometric Path Planning: Learning Context-Driven Trajectory Preferences via Sub-optimal Feedback},
  author    = {Jain, Ashesh and
               Sharma, Shikhar and
               Saxena, Ashutosh},
  booktitle = {Robotics Research: The 16th International Symposium ISRR},
  editor    = {Inaba, Masayuki and
               Corke, Peter},
  year      = {2016},
  publisher = {Springer International Publishing},
  pages     = {319--338},
  isbn      = {978-3-319-28872-7},
  doi       = {10.1007/978-3-319-28872-7_19},
  url       = {}