Tianlong Chen (陈天龙)

What does not kill you makes you stronger

(ICASSP 2021) VGAI, End-to-End Learning of Vision-Based Decentralized Controllers for Robot Swarms

VGAI: End-to-End Learning of Vision-Based Decentralized Controllers for Robot Swarms

[Paper] [Code]


Decentralized coordination of a robot swarm requires addressing the tension between local perceptions and actions, and the accomplishment of a global objective. In this work, we propose to learn decentralized controllers based on solely raw visual inputs. For the first time, that integrates the learning of two key components: communication and visual perception, in one end-to-end framework. More specifically, we consider that each robot has access to a visual perception of the immediate surroundings, and communication capabilities to transmit and receive messages from other neighboring robots. Our proposed learning framework combines a convolutional neural network (CNN) for each robot to extract messages from the visual inputs, and a graph neural network (GNN) over the entire swarm to transmit, receive and process these messages in order to decide on actions. The use of a GNN and locally-run CNNs results naturally in a decentralized controller. We jointly train the CNNs and the GNN so that each robot learns to extract messages from the images that are adequate for the team as a whole. Our experiments demonstrate the proposed architecture in the problem of drone flocking and show its promising performance and scalability, e.g., achieving successful decentralized flocking for large-sized swarms consisting of up to 75 drones.