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  • PhD Defense - James Preiss

    Tue, May 10, 2022 @ 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM

    Thomas Lord Department of Computer Science

    University Calendar

    PhD Candidate: James Preiss

    Title: Characterizing and Improving Robot Learning: A Control-Theoretic Perspective

    May 10, 2022, 2:00-4:00pm PDT

    In-person: RTH 306
    Zoom: https://usc.zoom.us/j/3224457297

    Gaurav S. Sukhatme (chair)
    Nora Ayanian
    Ashutosh Nayyar
    Stefanos Nikolaidis


    The interface between machine learning and control has enabled robots to move outside the laboratory into challenging real-world settings. Deep reinforcement learning can scale empirically to very complex systems, but we do not yet understand precisely when and why it succeeds. Control theory focuses on simpler systems, but delivers interpretability, mathematical understanding, and guarantees. We present projects that combine these strengths.

    In empirical work, we propose a framework for tasks with complex dynamics but known reward functions. We restrict the use of learning to the dynamics modeling stage, and act based on this model using traditional state-space control. We apply this framework to robotic manipulation of deformable objects.

    In theoretical work, we deploy the well-understood linear quadratic regulator (LQR) problem as a test case to "look inside" algorithms and problem structure. First, we investigate how reinforcement learning algorithms depend on properties of the dynamical system by bounding the variance of the REINFORCE policy gradient estimator as a function of the LQR system matrices. Second, we introduce the framework of suboptimal covering numbers to quantify how much a good multi-system policy must change with respect to the dynamics parameters, and bound the covering number for a simple class of LQR systems.

    Location: Ronald Tutor Hall of Engineering (RTH) - 306

    WebCast Link: https://usc.zoom.us/j/3224457297

    Audiences: Everyone Is Invited

    Contact: Lizsl De Leon

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