Workshop: Deployable Decision Making in Embodied Systems (DDM)

Learning Impedance Actions for Safe Reinforcement Learning in Contact-Rich Tasks

Quantao Yang · Elin Topp · Todor Stoyanov · Johannes A. Stork


Reinforcement Learning (RL) has the potential of solving complex continuous control tasks, with direct applications to robotics. Nevertheless, current state-of-the-art methods are generally unsafe to learn directly on a physical robot as exploration by trial-and-error can cause harm to the real world systems. In this paper, we leverage a framework for learning latent action spaces for RL agents from demonstrated trajectories. We extend this framework by connecting it to a variable impedance Cartesian space controller, allowing us to learn contact-rich tasks safely and efficiently. Our method learns from trajectories that incorporate both positional, but also crucially impedance-space information. We evaluate our method on a number of peg-in-hole task variants with a Franka Panda arm and demonstrate that learning variable impedance actions for RL in Cartesian space can be safely deployed on the real robot directly, without resorting to learning in simulation and a subsequent policy transfer.

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