Skill generalisation and experience acquisition for predicting and avoiding execution failures

  • Fähigkeitsgeneralisierung und Erfahrungserwerb zum Vorhersagen und Vermeiden von Ausführungsfehlern

Mitrevski, Aleksandar (Alex); Lakemeyer, Gerhard (Thesis advisor); Plöger, Paul G. (Thesis advisor); Beetz, Michael (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : RWTH Aachen University (2023)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, RWTH Aachen University, 2023


For performing tasks in their target environments, autonomous robots usually execute and combine skills. Robot skills in general and learning-based skills in particular are usually designed so that flexible skill acquisition is possible, but without an explicit consideration of execution failures, the impact that failure analysis can have on the skill learning process, or the benefits of introspection for effective coexistence with humans. Particularly in human-centered environments, the ability to understand, explain, and appropriately react to failures can affect a robot's trustworthiness and, consequently, its overall acceptability. Thus, in this dissertation, we study the questions of how parameterised skills can be designed so that execution-level decisions are associated with semantic knowledge about the execution process, and how such knowledge can be utilised for avoiding and analysing execution failures. The first major segment of this work is dedicated to developing a representation for skill parameterisation whose objective is to improve the transparency of the skill parameterisation process and enable a semantic analysis of execution failures. We particularly develop a hybrid learning-based representation for parameterising skills, called an execution model, which combines qualitative success preconditions with a function that maps parameters to predicted execution success. The second major part of this work focuses on applications of the execution model representation to address different types of execution failures. We first present a diagnosis algorithm that, given parameters that have resulted in a failure, finds a failure hypothesis by searching for violations of the qualitative model, as well as an experience correction algorithm that uses the found hypothesis to identify parameters that are likely to correct the failure. Furthermore, we present an extension of execution models that allows multiple qualitative execution contexts to be considered so that context-specific execution failures can be avoided. Finally, to enable the avoidance of model generalisation failures, we propose an adaptive ontology-assisted strategy for execution model generalisation between object categories that aims to combine the benefits of model-based and data-driven methods; for this, information about category similarities as encoded in an ontology is integrated with outcomes of model generalisation attempts performed by a robot. The proposed methods are exemplified in terms of various use cases - object and handle grasping, object stowing, pulling, and hand-over - and evaluated in multiple experiments performed with a physical robot. The main contributions of this work include a formalisation of the skill parameterisation problem by considering execution failures as an integral part of the skill design and learning process, a demonstration of how a hybrid representation for parameterising skills can contribute towards improving the introspective properties of robot skills, as well as an extensive evaluation of the proposed methods in various experiments. We believe that this work constitutes a small first step towards more failure-aware robots that are suitable to be used in human-centered environments.