On the importance of dynamics and diversity in (cognitive) symbol systems

Tadahiro Taniguchi; Emre Ugur; Matej Hoffmann; Lorenzo Jamone; Takayuki Nagai; Benjamin Rosman, Symbol Emergence in Cognitive Developmental Systems: A Survey, IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems ( Volume: 11, Issue: 4, Dec. 2019), DOI: 10.1109/TCDS.2018.2867772.

Humans use signs, e.g., sentences in a spoken language, for communication and thought. Hence, symbol systems like language are crucial for our communication with other agents and adaptation to our real-world environment. The symbol systems we use in our human society adaptively and dynamically change over time. In the context of artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive systems, the symbol grounding problem has been regarded as one of the central problems related to symbols. However, the symbol grounding problem was originally posed to connect symbolic AI and sensorimotor information and did not consider many interdisciplinary phenomena in human communication and dynamic symbol systems in our society, which semiotics considered. In this paper, we focus on the symbol emergence problem, addressing not only cognitive dynamics but also the dynamics of symbol systems in society, rather than the symbol grounding problem. We first introduce the notion of a symbol in semiotics from the humanities, to leave the very narrow idea of symbols in symbolic AI. Furthermore, over the years, it became more and more clear that symbol emergence has to be regarded as a multifaceted problem. Therefore, second, we review the history of the symbol emergence problem in different fields, including both biological and artificial systems, showing their mutual relations. We summarize the discussion and provide an integrative viewpoint and comprehensive overview of symbol emergence in cognitive systems. Additionally, we describe the challenges facing the creation of cognitive systems that can be part of symbol emergence systems.

Interesting related work on internal models for action prediction and on the exploration/exploitation trade-off

Simón C. Smith; J. Michael Herrmann, Evaluation of Internal Models in Autonomous Learning, IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems ( Volume: 11, Issue: 4, Dec. 2019), DOI: 10.1109/TCDS.2018.2865999.

Internal models (IMs) can represent relations between sensors and actuators in natural and artificial agents. In autonomous robots, the adaptation of IMs and the adaptation of the behavior are interdependent processes which have been studied under paradigms for self-organization of behavior such as homeokinesis. We compare the effect of various types of IMs on the generation of behavior in order to evaluate model quality across different behaviors. The considered IMs differ in the degree of flexibility and expressivity related to, respectively, learning speed and structural complexity of the model. We show that the different IMs generate different error characteristics which in turn lead to variations of the self-generated behavior of the robot. Due to the tradeoff between error minimization and complexity of the explored environment, we compare the models in the sense of Pareto optimality. Among the linear and nonlinear models that we analyze, echo-state networks achieve a particularly high performance which we explain as a result of the combination of fast learning and complex internal dynamics. More generally, we provide evidence that Pareto optimization is preferable in autonomous learning as it allows that a special solution can be negotiated in any particular environment.

Modelling robot motion sequences through context-free grammars

Rudolf Lioutikov, Guilherme Maeda, Filipe Veiga, Kristian Kersting, Jan Peters, Learning attribute grammars for movement primitive sequencing, The International Journal of Robotics Research, Vol 39, Issue 1, 2020, DOI: 10.1177/0278364919868279.

Movement primitives are a well studied and widely applied concept in modern robotics. However, composing primitives out of an existing library has shown to be a challenging problem. We propose the use of probabilistic context-free grammars to sequence a series of primitives to generate complex robot policies from a given library of primitives. The rule-based nature of formal grammars allows an intuitive encoding of hierarchically structured tasks. This hierarchical concept strongly connects with the way robot policies can be learned, organized, and re-used. However, the induction of context-free grammars has proven to be a complicated and yet unsolved challenge. We exploit the physical nature of robot movement primitives to restrict and efficiently search the grammar space. The grammar is learned by applying a Markov chain Monte Carlo optimization over the posteriors of the grammars given the observations. The proposal distribution is defined as a mixture over the probabilities of the operators connecting the search space. Moreover, we present an approach for the categorization of probabilistic movement primitives and discuss how the connectibility of two primitives can be determined. These characteristics in combination with restrictions to the operators guarantee continuous sequences while reducing the grammar space. In addition, a set of attributes and conditions is introduced that augments probabilistic context-free grammars in order to solve primitive sequencing tasks with the capability to adapt single primitives within the sequence. The method was validated on tasks that require the generation of complex sequences consisting of simple movement primitives using a seven-degree-of-freedom lightweight robotic arm.

Mixing human advice and reward functions for improving reinforcement learning of motor skills in robots with a nice related work on interactive RL

Carlos Celemin, Guilherme Maeda, Javier Ruiz-del-Solar, Jan Peters, Jens Kober, Reinforcement learning of motor skills using Policy Search and human corrective advice, The International Journal of Robotics Research, Vol 38, Issue 14, 2019, DOI: 10.1177/0278364919871998.

Robot learning problems are limited by physical constraints, which make learning successful policies for complex motor skills on real systems unfeasible. Some reinforcement learning methods, like Policy Search, offer stable convergence toward locally optimal solutions, whereas interactive machine learning or learning-from-demonstration methods allow fast transfer of human knowledge to the agents. However, most methods require expert demonstrations. In this work, we propose the use of human corrective advice in the actions domain for learning motor trajectories. Additionally, we combine this human feedback with reward functions in a Policy Search learning scheme. The use of both sources of information speeds up the learning process, since the intuitive knowledge of the human teacher can be easily transferred to the agent, while the Policy Search method with the cost/reward function take over for supervising the process and reducing the influence of occasional wrong human corrections. This interactive approach has been validated for learning movement primitives with simulated arms with several degrees of freedom in reaching via-point movements, and also using real robots in such tasks as “writing characters” and the ball-in-a-cup game. Compared with standard reinforcement learning without human advice, the results show that the proposed method not only converges to higher rewards when learning movement primitives, but also that the learning is sped up by a factor of 4–40 times, depending on the task.

Estimating aging of integrated circuits with machine learning

Ke Huang; Xinqiao Zhang; Naghmeh Karimi, Real-Time Prediction for IC Aging Based on Machine Learning, IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, Volume: 68, Issue: 12, Dec. 2019, DOI: 10.1109/TIM.2019.2899477.

Estimating the aging-related degradation and failure of nanoscale integrated circuits (ICs), before they actually occur, is crucial for developing aging prevention/mitigation actions and in turn avoiding unexpected in-field circuit failures. Real-time monitoring of IC operating conditions can be efficiently used for predicting aging degradation and in turn timing failures caused by device aging. The existing approaches only take some specific operating conditions (e.g., workload or temperature) into account. In this paper, we propose a novel method for real-time IC aging prediction by extending the prediction schemes to a comprehensive model which takes into account any time-variant dynamic operating conditions relevant to aging prediction. Using a machine learning prediction model and the notion of equivalent aging time, we show that our approach outperforms the existing methods in terms of aging-prediction accuracy under different scenarios of time-variant operating conditions.

For compilers to be WCET-aware

Heiko Falk, Paul Lokuciejewski, A compiler framework for the reduction of worst-case execution times, Real-Time Systems volume 46, pages251–300(2010), DOI: 10.1007/s11241-019-09337-9.

The current practice to design software for real-time systems is tedious. There is almost no tool support that assists the designer in automatically deriving safe bounds of the worst-case execution time (WCET) of a system during code generation and in systematically optimizing code to reduce WCET. This article presents concepts and infrastructures for WCET-aware code generation and optimization techniques for WCET reduction. All together, they help to obtain code explicitly optimized for its worst-case timing, to automate large parts of the real-time software design flow, and to reduce costs of a real-time system by allowing to use tailored hardware.

Reinforcement learning for improving autonomy of mobile robots in calibrating visual sensors

Fernando Nobre, Christoffer Heckman, Learning to calibrate: Reinforcement learning for guided calibration of visual–inertial rigs,. The International Journal of Robotics Research, 38(12–13), 1352–1374, DOI: 10.1177/0278364919844824.

We present a new approach to assisted intrinsic and extrinsic calibration with an observability-aware visual–inertial calibration system that guides the user through the calibration procedure by suggesting easy-to-perform motions that render the calibration parameters observable. This is done by identifying which subset of the parameter space is rendered observable with a rank-revealing decomposition of the Fisher information matrix, modeling calibration as a Markov decision process and using reinforcement learning to establish which discrete sequence of motions optimizes for the regression of the desired parameters. The goal is to address the assumption common to most calibration solutions: that sufficiently informative motions are provided by the operator. We do not make use of a process model and instead leverage an experience-based approach that is broadly applicable to any platform in the context of simultaneous localization and mapping. This is a step in the direction of long-term autonomy and “power-on-and-go” robotic systems, making repeatable and reliable calibration accessible to the non-expert operator.

Grid maps extended with confidence information

Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi, Eric Heiden, Karol Hausman, Confidence-rich grid mapping,. The International Journal of Robotics Research, 38(12–13), 1352–1374, DOI: 10.1177/0278364919839762.

Representing the environment is a fundamental task in enabling robots to act autonomously in unknown environments. In this work, we present confidence-rich mapping (CRM), a new algorithm for spatial grid-based mapping of the 3D environment. CRM augments the occupancy level at each voxel by its confidence value. By explicitly storing and evolving confidence values using the CRM filter, CRM extends traditional grid mapping in three ways: first, it partially maintains the probabilistic dependence among voxels; second, it relaxes the need for hand-engineering an inverse sensor model and proposes the concept of sensor cause model that can be derived in a principled manner from the forward sensor model; third, and most importantly, it provides consistent confidence values over the occupancy estimation that can be reliably used in collision risk evaluation and motion planning. CRM runs online and enables mapping environments where voxels might be partially occupied. We demonstrate the performance of the method on various datasets and environments in simulation and on physical systems. We show in real-world experiments that, in addition to achieving maps that are more accurate than traditional methods, the proposed filtering scheme demonstrates a much higher level of consistency between its error and the reported confidence, hence, enabling a more reliable collision risk evaluation for motion planning.

Robots with extended sensorization of their physical building materials

Dana Hughes, Christoffer Heckman, Nikolaus Correll, Materials that make robots smart ,. The International Journal of Robotics Research, 38(12–13), 1338–1351, DOI: 10.1177/0278364919856099.

We posit that embodied artificial intelligence is not only a computational, but also a materials problem. While the importance of material and structural properties in the control loop are well understood, materials can take an active role during control by tight integration of sensors, actuators, computation, and communication. We envision such materials to abstract functionality, therefore making the construction of intelligent robots more straightforward and robust. For example, robots could be made of bones that measure load, muscles that move, skin that provides the robot with information about the kind and location of tactile sensations ranging from pressure to texture and damage, eyes that extract high-level information, and brain material that provides computation in a scalable manner. Such materials will not resemble any existing engineered materials, but rather the heterogeneous components out of which their natural counterparts are made. We describe the state-of-the-art in so-called “robotic materials,” their opportunities for revolutionizing applications ranging from manipulation to autonomous driving by describing two recent robotic materials, a smart skin and a smart tire in more depth, and conclude with open challenges that the robotics community needs to address in collaboration with allies, such as wireless sensor network researchers and polymer scientists.

A comparison / evaluation of bug algorithms for mobile robots and their bad performance when relying in only one sensor

K.N. McGuire, G.C.H.E. de Croon, K. Tuyls, A comparative study of bug algorithms for robot navigation,. Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Volume 121, DOI: 10.1016/j.robot.2019.103261.

This paper presents a literature survey and a comparative study of Bug Algorithms, with the goal of investigating their potential for robotic navigation. At first sight, these methods seem to provide an efficient navigation paradigm, ideal for implementations on tiny robots with limited resources. Closer inspection, however, shows that many of these Bug Algorithms assume perfect global position estimate of the robot which in GPS-denied environments implies considerable expenses of computation and memory — relying on accurate Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM) or Visual Odometry (VO) methods. We compare a selection of Bug Algorithms in a simulated robot and environment where they endure different types noise and failure-cases of their on-board sensors. From the simulation results, we conclude that the implemented Bug Algorithms’ performances are sensitive to many types of sensor-noise, which was most noticeable for odometry-drift. This raises the question if Bug Algorithms are suitable for real-world, on-board, robotic navigation as is. Variations that use multiple sensors to keep track of their progress towards the goal, were more adept in completing their task in the presence of sensor-failures. This shows that Bug Algorithms must spread their risk, by relying on the readings of multiple sensors, to be suitable for real-world deployment.