Combining Learning from Demonstration with Learning by Exploration to Facilitate Contact-Rich Tasks

Yunlei Shi, Zhaopeng Chen, Yansong Wu, Dimitri Henkel, Sebastian Riedel, Hongxu Liu, Qian Feng, Jianwei Zhang

Collaborative robots are expected to be able to work alongside humans and in some cases directly replace existing human workers, thus effectively responding to rapid assembly line changes. Current methods for programming contact-rich tasks, especially in heavily constrained space, tend to be fairly inefficient. Therefore, faster and more intuitive approaches to robot teaching are urgently required. This work focuses on combining visual servoing based learning from demonstration (LfD) and force-based learning by exploration (LbE), to enable fast and intuitive programming of contact-rich tasks with minimal user effort required. Two learning approaches were developed and integrated into a framework, and one relying on human to robot motion mapping (the visual servoing approach) and one on force-based reinforcement learning. The developed framework implements the non-contact demonstration teaching method based on visual servoing approach and optimizes the demonstrated robot target positions according to the detected contact state. The framework has been compared with two most commonly used baseline techniques, pendant-based teaching and hand-guiding teaching. The efficiency and reliability of the framework have been validated through comparison experiments involving the teaching and execution of contact-rich tasks. The framework proposed in this paper has performed the best in terms of teaching time, execution success rate, risk of damage, and ease of use.

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