Conference Paper

Heuristic-free Optimization of Force-Controlled Robot Search Strategies in Stochastic Environments

Our paper “Heuristic-free Optimization of Force-Controlled Robot Search Strategies in Stochastic Environments” has been accepted at the 2022 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS).

In the paper, we describe a machine learning-based system for optimizing the parameters of robot search motions in noisy environments, while requiring minimal real-world training data.

The full text of the paper is publicly accessible on ArXiv.


In both industrial and service domains, a central benefit of the use of robots is their ability to quickly and reliably execute repetitive tasks. However, even relatively simple peg-in-hole tasks are typically subject to stochastic variations, requiring search motions to find relevant features such as holes. While search improves robustness, it comes at the cost of increased runtime: More exhaustive search will maximize the probability of successfully executing a given task, but will significantly delay any downstream tasks. This trade-off is typically resolved by human experts according to simple heuristics, which are rarely optimal. This paper introduces an automatic, data-driven and heuristic-free approach to optimize robot search strategies. By training a neural model of the search strategy on a large set of simulated stochastic environments, conditioning it on few real-world examples and inverting the model, we can infer search strategies which adapt to the time-variant characteristics of the underlying probability distributions, while requiring very few real-world measurements. We evaluate our approach on two different industrial robots in the context of spiral and probe search for THT electronics assembly.