A formal methods approach to interpretable reinforcement learning for robotic planning

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Science Robotics  18 Dec 2019:
Vol. 4, Issue 37, eaay6276
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aay6276


Growing interest in reinforcement learning approaches to robotic planning and control raises concerns of predictability and safety of robot behaviors realized solely through learned control policies. In addition, formally defining reward functions for complex tasks is challenging, and faulty rewards are prone to exploitation by the learning agent. Here, we propose a formal methods approach to reinforcement learning that (i) provides a formal specification language that integrates high-level, rich, task specifications with a priori, domain-specific knowledge; (ii) makes the reward generation process easily interpretable; (iii) guides the policy generation process according to the specification; and (iv) guarantees the satisfaction of the (critical) safety component of the specification. The main ingredients of our computational framework are a predicate temporal logic specifically tailored for robotic tasks and an automaton-guided, safe reinforcement learning algorithm based on control barrier functions. Although the proposed framework is quite general, we motivate it and illustrate it experimentally for a robotic cooking task, in which two manipulators worked together to make hot dogs.

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