How Can Robots Make Better Decisions? MIT and Stanford Researchers Introduce Diffusion-CCSP for Advanced Robotic Reasoning and Planning

The capacity to choose continuous values, such as grasps and object placements, that satisfy complicated geometric and physical constraints, like stability and lack of collision, is crucial for robotic manipulation planning. Samplers for each type of constraint have traditionally been learned or optimized separately in existing methods. However, a general-purpose solver is needed for complex problems to generate values that simultaneously satisfy a wide variety of constraints. 

Due to data scarcity, building or training a single model to satisfy all potential requirements can be difficult. As a result, general-purpose robot planners must be able to recycle and construct solvers for larger jobs. 

As a unified framework, recent MIT and Stanford University research suggests using constraint graphs to express constraint-satisfaction problems as new combinations of learned constraint types. Then, they can use constraint solvers based on diffusion models to identify solutions that jointly fulfill the constraints. An example of a decision variable is a gripping stance, although a placement pose or a robot’s trajectory are also examples of nodes in a constraint graph.

To solve new problems, the compositional diffusion constraint solver (Diffusion-CCSP) learns a set of diffusion models for different constraints. It then combines tutors to find satisfying assignments through a diffusion process that generates different samples from the feasible region. Specifically, every diffusion model is trained to produce viable solutions for a single class of constraint (such as positions that avoid collisions). At inference time, the researchers could condition on any subset of the variables and solve for the rest, as the diffusion models are generative models of the set of solutions. Each diffusion model is trained to minimize an implicit energy function, making the task of satisfying global constraints equivalent to minimizing the energy of solutions as a whole (here, just the sum of the energy functions of the individual solutions). These two additions provide significant leeway for customization in training and inference. 

Separately or jointly, compositional problem and solution pairs can be used to train component diffusion models. Even when the constraint graph contains more variables than were seen during training, Diffusion-CCSP can generalize to novel combinations of known constraints at performance time.

The researchers test Diffusion-CCSP on four difficult domains, including triangle dense-packing in two dimensions, form arrangement in two dimensions subject to qualitative restrictions, shape stacking in three dimensions subject to stability constraints, and item packing in three dimensions using robots. The findings demonstrate that this method outperforms baselines in inference speed and generalization to new constraint combinations and more constrained issues.

The team highlights that all the constraints we’ve examined in this work have a fixed arity. Taking into account constraints and variable arity is an intriguing route to go. They also believe it would be helpful if their model could take in natural language instructions. Furthermore, the current method for creating labels and solutions for tasks is restricted, especially when dealing with qualitative limitations like “setting the dining table.” They suggest that future developments use more complex shape encoders and learning constraints derived from real-world data, such as online photographs, to expand the scope of current and future applications.


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Dhanshree Shenwai is a Computer Science Engineer and has a good experience in FinTech companies covering Financial, Cards & Payments and Banking domain with keen interest in applications of AI. She is enthusiastic about exploring new technologies and advancements in today’s evolving world making everyone's life easy.

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