Information-theoretic Model Identification and Policy Search using Physics Engines with Application to Robotic Manipulation

Shaojun Zhu, Andrew Kimmel, Abdeslam Boularias

We consider the problem of a robot learning the mechanical properties of objects through physical interaction with the object, and introduce a practical, data-efficient approach for identifying the motion models of these objects. The proposed method utilizes a physics engine, where the robot seeks to identify the inertial and friction parameters of the object by simulating its motion under different values of the parameters and identifying those that result in a simulation which matches the observed real motions. The problem is solved in a Bayesian optimization framework. The same framework is used for both identifying the model of an object online and searching for a policy that would minimize a given cost function according to the identified model. Experimental results both in simulation and using a real robot indicate that the proposed method outperforms state-of-the-art model-free reinforcement learning approaches.

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