Code as Policies: Language Model Programs for Embodied Control

Jacky Liang, Wenlong Huang, Fei Xia, Peng Xu, Karol Hausman, Brian Ichter, Pete Florence, Andy Zeng

Large language models (LLMs) trained on code completion have been shown to be capable of synthesizing simple Python programs from docstrings [1]. We find that these code-writing LLMs can be re-purposed to write robot policy code, given natural language commands. Specifically, policy code can express functions or feedback loops that process perception outputs (e.g.,from object detectors [2], [3]) and parameterize control primitive APIs. When provided as input several example language commands (formatted as comments) followed by corresponding policy code (via few-shot prompting), LLMs can take in new commands and autonomously re-compose API calls to generate new policy code respectively. By chaining classic logic structures and referencing third-party libraries (e.g., NumPy, Shapely) to perform arithmetic, LLMs used in this way can write robot policies that (i) exhibit spatial-geometric reasoning, (ii) generalize to new instructions, and (iii) prescribe precise values (e.g., velocities) to ambiguous descriptions ("faster") depending on context (i.e., behavioral commonsense). This paper presents code as policies: a robot-centric formalization of language model generated programs (LMPs) that can represent reactive policies (e.g., impedance controllers), as well as waypoint-based policies (vision-based pick and place, trajectory-based control), demonstrated across multiple real robot platforms. Central to our approach is prompting hierarchical code-gen (recursively defining undefined functions), which can write more complex code and also improves state-of-the-art to solve 39.8% of problems on the HumanEval [1] benchmark. Code and videos are available at

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