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Deep RL at Scale: Sorting Waste in Office Buildings with a Fleet of Mobile Manipulators

arXiv preprint paper; YouTube video; Blogpost: Posted by Sergey Levine, Research Scientist, and Alexander Herzog, Staff Research Software Engineer, Google Research, Brain Team. “Reinforcement learning (RL) can enable robots to learn complex behaviors through trial-and-error interaction, getting better and better over time. Several of our prior works explored how RL can enable intricate robotic skills, such as robotic grasping, multi-task learning, and even playing table tennis. Although robotic RL has come a long way, we still don’t see RL-enabled robots in everyday settings. The real world is complex, diverse, and changes over time, presenting a major challenge for robotic systems. However, we believe that RL should offer us an excellent tool for tackling precisely these challenges: by continually practicing, getting better, and learning on the job, robots should be able to adapt to the world as it changes around them. In “Deep RL at Scale: Sorting Waste in Office Buildings with a Fleet of Mobile Manipulators”, we discuss how we studied this problem through a recent large-scale experiment, where we deployed a fleet of 23 RL-enabled robots over two years in Google office buildings to sort waste and recycling. Our robotic system combines scalable deep RL from real-world data with bootstrapping from training in simulation and auxiliary object perception inputs to boost generalization, while retaining the benefits of end-to-end training, which we validate with 4,800 evaluation trials across 240 waste station configurations.”

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