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In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper

Moving Forward by Moving Backward: Embedding Action Impact over Action Semantics

Kuo-Hao Zeng · Luca Weihs · Roozbeh Mottaghi · Ali Farhadi



A common assumption when training embodied agents is that the impact of taking an action is stable; for instance, executing the ``move ahead'' action will always move the agent forward by a fixed distance, perhaps with some small amount of actuator-induced noise. This assumption is limiting; an agent may encounter settings that dramatically alter the impact of actions: a move ahead action on a wet floor may send the agent twice as far as it expects and using the same action with a broken wheel might transform the expected translation into a rotation. Instead of relying that the impact of an action stably reflects its pre-defined semantic meaning, we propose to model the impact of actions on-the-fly using latent embeddings. By combining these latent action embeddings with a novel, transformer-based, policy head, we design an Action Adaptive Policy (AAP). We evaluate our AAP on two challenging visual navigation tasks in the AI2-THOR and Habitat environments and show that our AAP is highly performant even when faced, at inference-time, with missing actions and, previously unseen, perturbed action spaces. Moreover, we observe significant improvement in robustness against these actions when evaluating in real-world scenarios.

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