Autonomous sensor and action model learning for mobile robots

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Stronger, Daniel Adam

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Autonomous mobile robots have the potential to be extremely beneficial to society due to their ability to perform tasks that are difficult or dangerous for humans. These robots will necessarily interact with their environment through the two fundamental processes of acting and sensing. Robots learn about the state of the world around them through their sensations, and they influence that state through their actions. However, in order to interact with their environment effectively, these robots must have accurate models of their sensors and actions: knowledge of what their sensations say about the state of the world and how their actions affect that state. A mobile robot’s action and sensor models are typically tuned manually, a brittle and laborious process. The robot’s actions and sensors may change either over time from wear or because of a novel environment’s terrain or lighting. It is therefore valuable for the robot to be able to autonomously learn these models. This dissertation presents a methodology that enables mobile robots to learn their action and sensor models starting without an accurate estimate of either model. This methodology is instantiated in three robotic scenarios. First, an algorithm is presented that enables an autonomous agent to learn its action and sensor models in a class of one-dimensional settings. Experimental tests are performed on a four-legged robot, the Sony Aibo ERS-7, walking forward and backward at different speeds while facing a fixed landmark. Second, a probabilistically motivated model learning algorithm is presented that operates on the same robot walking in two dimensions with arbitrary combinations of forward, sideways, and turning velocities. Finally, an algorithm is presented to learn the action and sensor models of a very different mobile robot, an autonomous car.