Enhancing Task Performance of Learned Simplified Models via Reinforcement Learning


In contact-rich tasks, the hybrid, multi-modal nature of contact dynamics poses great challenges in model representation, planning, and control. Recent efforts have attempted to address these challenges via data-driven methods, learning dynamical models in combination with model predictive control. Those methods, while effective, rely solely on minimizing forward prediction errors to hope for better task performance with MPC controllers. This weak correlation can result in data inefficiency as well as limitations to overall performance. In response, we propose a novel strategy: using a policy gradient algorithm to find a simplified dynamics model that explicitly maximizes task performance. Specifically, we parameterize the stochastic policy as the perturbed output of the MPC controller, thus, the learned model representation can directly associate with the policy or task performance. We apply the proposed method to contact-rich tasks where a three-fingered robotic hand manipulates previously unknown objects. Our method significantly enhances task success rate by up to 15% in manipulating diverse objects compared to the existing method while sustaining data efficiency. Our method can solve some tasks with success rates of 70% or higher using under 30 minutes of data. All videos and codes are available at https://sites.google.com/view/lcs-rl.

In 2024 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in PACIFICO Yokohama