Iranian Scientist Helps Robots to Learn How to Do Things

Wednesday, June 26, 2019 - 14:37

Dorsa Sadigh, assistant professor of computer science and of electrical engineering, and her lab in Stanford University are developing ways of providing human guidance to autonomous robots.

According to the university’s official website, researchers have combined two different ways of setting goals for robots into a single process, which performed better than either of its parts alone in both simulations and real-world experiments.

“In the future, I fully expect there to be more autonomous systems in the world and they are going to need some concept of what is good and what is bad,” said Andy Palan, graduate student in computer science and co-lead author of the paper. “It’s crucial, if we want to deploy these autonomous systems in the future, that we get that right.”

The team’s new system for providing instruction to robots – known as reward functions – combines demonstrations, in which humans show the robot what to do, and user preference surveys, in which people answer questions about how they want the robot to behave.

“Demonstrations are informative but they can be noisy. On the other hand, preferences provide, at most, one bit of information, but are way more accurate,” said Sadigh. “Our goal is to get the best of both worlds, and combine data coming from both of these sources more intelligently to better learn about humans’ preferred reward function.”

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