Abstracting complex 3D shapes with parsimonious part-based representations has been a long standing goal in computer vision. This paper presents a learning-based solution to this problem which goes beyond the traditional 3D cuboid representation by exploiting superquadrics as atomic elements. We demonstrate that superquadrics lead to more expressive 3D scene parses while being easier to learn than 3D cuboid representations. Moreover, we provide an analytical solution to the Chamfer loss which avoids the need for computational expensive reinforcement learning or iterative prediction. Our model learns to parse 3D objects into consistent superquadric representations without supervision. Results on various ShapeNet categories as well as the SURREAL human body dataset demonstrate the flexibility of our model in capturing fine details and complex poses that could not have been modelled using cuboids.
How much does having visual priors about the world (e.g. the fact that the world is 3D) assist in learning to perform downstream motor tasks (e.g. delivering a package)? We study this question by integrating a generic perceptual skill set (e.g. a distance estimator, an edge detector, etc.) within a reinforcement learning framework--see Figure 1. This skill set (hereafter mid-level perception) provides the policy with a more processed state of the world compared to raw images. We find that using a mid-level perception confers significant advantages over training end-to-end from scratch (i.e. not leveraging priors) in navigation-oriented tasks. Agents are able to generalize to situations where the from-scratch approach fails and training becomes significantly more sample efficient. However, we show that realizing these gains requires careful selection of the mid-level perceptual skills. Therefore, we refine our findings into an efficient max-coverage feature set that can be adopted in lieu of raw images. We perform our study in completely separate buildings for training and testing and compare against visually blind baseline policies and state-of-the-art feature learning methods.
An important facet of reinforcement learning (RL) has to do with how the agent goes about exploring the environment. Traditional exploration strategies typically focus on efficiency and ignore safety. However, for practical applications, ensuring safety of the agent during exploration is crucial since performing an unsafe action or reaching an unsafe state could result in irreversible damage to the agent. The main challenge of safe exploration is that characterizing the unsafe states and actions is difficult for large continuous state or action spaces and unknown environments. In this paper, we propose a novel approach to incorporate estimations of safety to guide exploration and policy search in deep reinforcement learning. By using a cost function to capture trajectory-based safety, our key idea is to formulate the state-action value function of this safety cost as a candidate Lyapunov function and extend control-theoretic results to approximate its derivative using online Gaussian Process (GP) estimation. We show how to use these statistical models to guide the agent in unknown environments to obtain high-performance control policies with provable stability certificates.