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Rehg, James M.

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Learning to Reach into the Unknown: Selecting Initial Conditions When Reaching in Clutter

2014-09 , Park, Daehyung , Kapusta, Ariel , Kim, You Keun , Rehg, James M. , Kemp, Charles C.

Often in highly-cluttered environments, a robot can observe the exterior of the environment with ease, but cannot directly view nor easily infer its detailed internal structure (e.g., dense foliage or a full refrigerator shelf). We present a data-driven approach that greatly improves a robot’s success at reaching to a goal location in the unknown interior of an environment based on observable external properties, such as the category of the clutter and the locations of openings into the clutter (i.e., apertures). We focus on the problem of selecting a good initial configuration for a manipulator when reaching with a greedy controller. We use density estimation to model the probability of a successful reach given an initial condition and then perform constrained optimization to find an initial condition with the highest estimated probability of success. We evaluate our approach with two simulated robots reaching in clutter, and provide a demonstration with a real PR2 robot reaching to locations through random apertures. In our evaluations, our approach significantly outperformed two alter- native approaches when making two consecutive reach attempts to goals in distinct categories of unknown clutter. Notably, our approach only uses sparse readily-apparent features.