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A Robot Leg Learned to Walk by Itself Without Programming in Scarily Short Time (sciencealert.com)
10 points by known 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments



The paper[0] is less vague than the article. To put this in terms of reinforcement learning:

1. Sample actions from a random policy distribution.

2. Fit an inverse model with supervised learning from this data. Inverse models learn to map current observations and next observations to the action which produced the next observation: f(s_t, s_t+1) -> a_t

3. Use reinforcement learning to fit a policy which varies the next observation towards a goal: p(s_t) -> s_t+1

4. Use new data from attempts with the policy and inverse model working together to continue training the inverse model.

Motor babbling is a quick way of generating data but it isn't particularly efficient. The problem with taking random actions is that most of your data is going to cover parts of the state space that aren't important for the task. The addition of the policy allows biasing future attempts towards more useful areas of the state space to continue training the inverse model.

This paper [1] also includes a forward and inverse model to improve sample efficiency for more examples of these ideas.

[0] https://www.nature.com/articles/s42256-019-0029-0

[1] https://arxiv.org/abs/1606.07419


They're essentially doing surrogate model optimization, but using a neural network instead of Gaussian processes. This is the same way that the control policy for the MIT Cheetah robot was created.


Meh, after seeing a presentation on how genetic algorithms were used to figure out the most optimal walk for a dinosaur with a given skeletal structure, this does not seem that impressive or scary, especially since we probably have way more computing power now for machine learning than we did almost a decade ago.

No programming necessary, just throw in a bunch of variable settings for bone sizes, lengths, and weights, spawn hundreds of dinosaurs firing random muscle movements, and breed only the ones that manage to walk the most distance by pure luck with each generation, until you get descendants who are very good at walking thousands of generations later.


Yeah, here is 1994 using genetic algorithms in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBt0imn77Zg


Looks like a lot of those would benefit from a little more evolving. Apparently the generations varied from 50-100. This paper is really interesting, and shows how detailed the simulation is: http://www.karlsims.com/papers/siggraph94.pdf


That's very cool, especially for 1994. I'd love to play a VR game where you get to breed and play with such creatures, kind of like what Spore should have been.

And here's a genetic walker you can grow in your own browser: https://rednuht.org/genetic_walkers/


Can we (HN community) please stop upvoting sciencealert garbage? They never cease to post utterly sensationalist garbage that is always clickbait titled and never accurately represents the information.




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