How to Train a Robot (Using Artificial Intelligence and Supercomputers)

Examples of 3D point clouds synthesized by the progressive conditional generative adversarial network (PCGAN) for an assortment of object classes. PCGAN creates geometry and color for point clouds with no supervision, using the coarse-to-fine training process. Credit: William Beksi, UT Arlington

UT Arlington computer scientists use TACC systems to build robotic objects that can be used for training robots.

Before joining the University of Texas at Arlington as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and establishing the Robotic Vision Laboratory there, William Beksi was an intern at iRobot, the largest manufacturer of robots for the consumer market (mainly via their Roomba robot vacuum).

To navigate through built environments, robots have to recognize and make choices about how they can interact with their surroundings. Researchers from the company were looking into applying machine and deep learning to teach their robots how to discover objects, but this requires a huge amount of data. There are millions of images and videos from rooms captured from the viewpoint of a robot vacuum. Training attempts by using images that have human-centric viewpoints were unsuccessful.

Beksi’s work focuses on computer vision, robotics, and a cyber-physical system. “Especially, I’meters considering creating algorithms which allow units to help study its friendships using the actual physical entire world along with autonomously obtain the knowledge required to execute high-level projects,” Beksi said.

A few years later, with a research team that included the six Ph.D. students in computer science, she recalled the Roomba training issue and began investigating ways to solve it. One manual method employed by some involves using an expensive 360-degree camera to capture the environment (including Airbnb properties rented) and then using customized software to stitch the photos back to create a single. However, Beksi believed that the manual approach was far too slow to succeed.

Examples from 3D cloud models created by an adversarial system called a progressive conditional generative network (PCGAN). Credit: William Beksi, Mohammad Samiul Arshad, UT Arlington

Instead, he focused on a type of deep learning called generative adversarial networks or GANs, where two neural networks compete against each other in a game until the generator of new data can trick a discriminator. Once developed, such a system could allow the design of many different indoor or outdoor spaces, including different types of tables or chairs or vehicles that have slight differences in their appearance yet still for a human and distinct robot object with identifiable dimensions and traits.

“You can perturb these things, move them into new jobs, apply unique equipment and lighting, coloring, in addition to consistency, after which it gives them into a training graphic that could be made use of in the dataset,” the researcher explained. “This process could offer unlimited details to learn your bot on.”

“Physically planning most of these physical objects could acquire so much means as well as time with human being labor though, in the event experienced correctly, generative CPA networks can get them to in seconds,” claimed Mohammad Samiul Arshad, your scholar student from Beksi’s lab that is part of the study.

Generating Objects for Synthetic Scenes

After a few attempts, Beksi realized that his desire to create photorealistic and complete scenes was currently not possible. “We took a step back and looked at current research to determine how to start at a smaller scale – generating simple objects in environments.”

Beksi Arshad and Arshad presented PCGAN as the first conditional-generative adversarial system to generate dense color point clouds using an unsupervised mode during the International Conference on 3D Vision (3DV) in November 2020. Their presentation, “A Progressive Conditional Generative Adversarial Network for Generating Dense and Colored 3D Point Clouds,” illustrates how the network’s capability to learn from a trained dataset (derived from ShapeNetCore, a model database for CAD) and to mimic the 3D data distribution to generate color-rich point clouds with precise details in a variety of resolutions.

“There is quite a few operate that could bring in man-made materials out there CAD type datasets,” they explained. “But no one could yet handle color.”

To test their algorithm using a variety of shapes, the team at Beksi’s picked tables, chairs, airplanes, sofas, and motorcycles for their test. The program allows researchers to use the nearly infinite variety of possible variations of the array of objects that the deep-learning system creates.

“All of our design 1st finds out the essential composition regarding an item with minimal promises in addition to progressively increases to high-level details,” they said. “The connection between the object’s components and their colors as an example, that the legs of a table and chair are identical, while the seat and top are different is also figured out through the networks. We’re beginning small, starting on objects, then creating a hierarchy to perform complete synthetic scene generation, which will be extremely beneficial to robotics.”

They created 5,000 random samples for each class and conducted an evaluation using various techniques. They evaluated point cloud shape and color by using a variety of metrics that are common in the field. The results proved that PCGAN could create top-quality point clouds for various objects.


Another problem that Beksi is working on is referred to as’sim2real.’ “You’ve actual education information and man-made education information, and there will be refined differences in exactly how a good AI program or automatic robot finds out from their website,” they explained. “‘Sim2real’ looks at how to quantify those differences and make simulations more realistic by capturing the physics of that scene – friction, collisions, gravity — and by using ray or photon tracing.”


Another step to take for the team of Beksi is to install this software to a robot and observe how it functions concerning the sim-to-real gap in the domain.

The PCGAN model’s training model was possible thanks to the TACC’s Maverick 2 deep learning resource that Beksi and his fellow students were able to access via the University of Texas Cyberinfrastructure Research (UTRC) program. The program gives computing resources for researchers at any of the 14 UT System’s institutions.

“If you want to increase the resolution to include more points and more detail, that increase comes with an increase in computational cost,” the researcher said. “All of us don’t possess those people electronics sources during my clinical so that it appeared to be necessary to make use of TACC to do that.”

Along with the computational requirements, Beksi needed a lot of storage space for his research. “These kinds of datasets are usually enormous, especially the 3D stage confuses,” they explained. “We produce thousands of megabytes worth of information per second. Each point cloud has around one million points. You require a massive amount of storage.”

While Beksi states that this field is quite a ways from having truly robust robots that can operate autonomously for long durations, it would greatly benefit various areas, such as manufacturing, health care, and agriculture.

“The actual magazine is just one little stage for the best goal connected with building man-made scenes connected with indoor environments regarding progressing robotic conception abilities,” the researcher said.

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