Motion planning and reactive control on learnt skill manifolds

Ioannis Havoutis, Subramanian Ramamoorthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We address the problem of encoding and executing skills, i.e. motion tasks involving a combination of specifications regarding constraints and variability. We take an approach that is model-free in the sense that we do not assume an explicit and complete analytical specification of the task – which can be hard to obtain for many realistic robot systems. Instead, we learn an encoding of the skill from observations of an initial set of sample trajectories. This is achieved by encoding trajectories in a skill manifold which is learnt from data and generalizes in the sense that all trajectories on the manifold satisfy the constraints and allowable variability in the demonstrated samples. In new instances of the trajectory-generation problem, we restrict attention to geodesic trajectories on the learnt skill manifold, making computation more tractable. This procedure is also extended to accommodate dynamic obstacles and constraints, and to dynamically react against unexpected perturbations, enabling a form of model-free feedback control with respect to an incompletely modelled skill. We present experiments to validate this framework using various robotic systems – ranging from a three-link arm to a small humanoid robot – demonstrating significant computational improvements without loss of accuracy. Finally, we present a comparative evaluation of our framework against a state-of-the-art imitation-learning method.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1150
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Robotics Research
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Learning and adaptive systems
  • cognitive robotics
  • humanoid robots
  • human-centered and life-like robotics
  • path planning for manipulators
  • manipulation


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