Robotics

Forthcoming
S. Krishnan, B. Boroujerdian, W. Fu, A. Faust, and V. J. Reddi, “Air Learning: An AI Research Platform for Algorithm-Hardware Benchmarking of Autonomous Aerial Robots,” Springer Machine Learning Journal, no. Special Issue on Reinforcement Learning for Real Life, Forthcoming. arXiv VersionAbstract
We introduce Air Learning, an AI research platform for benchmarking algorithm-hardware performance and energy efficiency trade-offs. We focus in particular on deep reinforcement learning (RL) interactions in autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Equipped with a random environment generator, AirLearning exposes a UAV to a diverse set of challenging scenarios. Users can specify a task, train different RL policies and evaluate their performance and energy efficiency on a variety of hardware platforms. To show how Air Learning can be used, we seed it with Deep Q Networks (DQN) and Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO) to solve a point-to-point obstacle avoidance task in three different environments, generated using our configurable environment generator. We train the two algorithms using curriculum learning and non-curriculum-learning. Air Learning assesses the trained policies' performance, under a variety of quality-of-flight (QoF) metrics, such as the energy consumed, endurance and the average trajectory length, on resource-constrained embedded platforms like a Ras-Pi. We find that the trajectories on an embedded Ras-Pi are vastly different from those predicted on a high-end desktop system, resulting in up to 79.43% longer trajectories in one of the environments. To understand the source of such differences, we use Air Learning to artificially degrade desktop performance to mimic what happens on a low-end embedded system. QoF metrics with hardware-in-the-loop characterize those differences and expose how the choice of onboard compute affects the aerial robot's performance. We also conduct reliability studies to demonstrate how Air Learning can help understand how sensor failures affect the learned policies. All put together, Air Learning enables a broad class of RL studies on UAVs. More information and code for Air Learning can be found here.
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2021
B. Plancher, S. M. Neuman, T. Bourgeat, S. Kuindersma, S. Devadas, and V. J. Reddi, “Accelerating Robot Dynamics Gradients on a CPU, GPU, and FPGA,” IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 2335-2342, 2021. IEEE VersionAbstract
Computing the gradient of rigid body dynamics is a central operation in many state-of-the-art planning and control algorithms in robotics. Parallel computing platforms such as GPUs and FPGAs can offer performance gains for algorithms with hardware-compatible computational structures. In this letter, we detail the designs of three faster than state-of-the-art implementations of the gradient of rigid body dynamics on a CPU, GPU, and FPGA. Our optimized FPGA and GPU implementations provide as much as a 3.0x end-to-end speedup over our optimized CPU implementation by refactoring the algorithm to exploit its computational features, e.g., parallelism at different granularities. We also find that the relative performance across hardware platforms depends on the number of parallel gradient evaluations required.
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2020
B. P. Duisterhof, et al., “Learning to Seek: Deep Reinforcement Learning for Phototaxis of a Nano Drone in an Obstacle Field”. 2020.
S. Krishnan, et al., “The Sky Is Not the Limit: A Visual Performance Model for Cyber-Physical Co-Design in Autonomous Machines,” IEEE Computer Architecture Letters, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 38-42, 2020.
2019
T. T. Nguyen and V. J. Reddi, “Deep Reinforcement Learning for Cyber Security,” ArXiv. 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The scale of Internet-connected systems has increased considerably, and these systems are being exposed to cyber attacks more than ever. The complexity and dynamics of cyber attacks require protecting mechanisms to be responsive, adaptive, and large-scale. Machine learning, or more specifically deep reinforcement learning (DRL), methods have been proposed widely to address these issues. By incorporating deep learning into traditional RL, DRL is highly capable of solving complex, dynamic, and especially high-dimensional cyber defense problems. This paper presents a survey of DRL approaches developed for cyber security. We touch on different vital aspects, including DRL-based security methods for cyber-physical systems, autonomous intrusion detection techniques, and multi-agent DRL-based game theory simulations for defense strategies against cyber attacks. Extensive discussions and future research directions on DRL-based cyber security are also given. We expect that this comprehensive review provides the foundations for and facilitates future studies on exploring the potential of emerging DRL to cope with increasingly complex cyber security problems.
Paper
E. Shaotran, J. J. Cruz, and V. J. Reddi, “GLADAS: Gesture Learning for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems”. 2019.
B. Boroujerdian, et al., “The Role of Compute in Autonomous Aerial Vehicles,” arXiv preprint arXiv:1906.10513, 2019.Abstract
Autonomous-mobile cyber-physical machines are part of our future. Specifically, unmanned-aerial-vehicles have seen a resurgence in activity with use-cases such as package delivery. These systems face many challenges such as their low-endurance caused by limited onboard-energy, hence, improving the mission-time and energy are of importance. Such improvements traditionally are delivered through better algorithms. But our premise is that more powerful and efficient onboard-compute should also address the problem. This paper investigates how the compute subsystem, in a cyber-physical mobile machine, such as a Micro Aerial Vehicle, impacts mission-time and energy. Specifically, we pose the question as what is the role of computing for cyber-physical mobile robots? We show that compute and motion are tightly intertwined, hence a close examination of cyber and physical processes and their impact on one another is necessary. We show different impact paths through which compute impacts mission-metrics and examine them using analytical models, simulation, and end-to-end benchmarking. To enable similar studies, we open sourced MAVBench, our tool-set consisting of a closed-loop simulator and a benchmark suite. Our investigations show cyber-physical co-design, a methodology where robot's cyber and physical processes/quantities are developed with one another consideration, similar to hardware-software co-design, is necessary for optimal robot design.
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B. Boroujerdian, et al., “The Role of Compute in Autonomous Aerial Vehicles”. 2019.Abstract
Autonomous-mobile cyber-physical machines are part of our future. Specifically, unmanned-aerial-vehicles have seen a resurgence in activity with use-cases such as package delivery. These systems face many challenges such as their low-endurance caused by limited onboard-energy, hence, improving the mission-time and energy are of importance. Such improvements traditionally are delivered through better algorithms. But our premise is that more powerful and efficient onboard-compute should also address the problem. This paper investigates how the compute subsystem, in a cyber-physical mobile machine, such as a Micro Aerial Vehicle, impacts mission-time and energy. Specifically, we pose the question as what is the role of computing for cyber-physical mobile robots? We show that compute and motion are tightly intertwined, hence a close examination of cyber and physical processes and their impact on one another is necessary. We show different impact paths through which compute impacts mission-metrics and examine them using analytical models, simulation, and end-to-end benchmarking. To enable similar studies, we open sourced MAVBench, our tool-set consisting of a closed-loop simulator and a benchmark suite. Our investigations show cyber-physical co-design, a methodology where robot's cyber and physical processes/quantities are developed with one another consideration, similar to hardware-software co-design, is necessary for optimal robot design.
S. Krishnan, B. Boroujerdian, A. Faust, and V. J. Reddi, “Toward Exploring End-to-End Learning Algorithms for Autonomous Aerial Machines,” Workshop Algorithms And Architectures For Learning In-The-Loop Systems In Autonomous Flight with International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). 2019.Abstract

We develop AirLearning, a tool suite for endto-end closed-loop UAV analysis, equipped with a customized yet randomized environment generator in order to expose the UAV with a diverse set of challenges. We take Deep Q networks (DQN) as an example deep reinforcement learning algorithm and use curriculum learning to train a point to point obstacle avoidance policy. While we determine the best policy based on the success rate, we evaluate it under strict resource constraints on an embedded platform such as RasPi 3. Using hardware in the loop methodology, we quantify the policy’s performance with quality of flight metrics such as energy consumed, endurance and the average length of the trajectory. We find that the trajectories produced on the embedded platform are very different from those predicted on the desktop, resulting in up to 26.43% longer trajectories.

Quality of flight metrics with hardware in the loop characterizes those differences in simulation, thereby exposing how the choice of onboard compute contributes to shortening or widening of ‘Sim2Real’ gap.

Paper
2018
T. - W. Chin, C. - L. Yu, M. Halpern, H. Genc, S. - L. Tsao, and V. J. Reddi, “Domain-Specific Approximation for Object Detection,” IEEE Micro, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 31–40, 2018. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In summary,

our contributions are as follows: • We investigate DSA and characterize the effectiveness of category-awareness. • We conduct a limit study to understand the benefit of applying approximation in a perframe manner with category-awareness (category-aware dynamic DSA). • We present the challenges of harnessing DSA and a proof-of-concept runtime.

Paper
B. Boroujerdian, H. Genc, S. Krishnan, W. Cui, A. Faust, and V. J. Reddi, “MAVBench: Micro Aerial Vehicle Benchmarking,” in Proceedings of the International Symposium on Microarchitecture (MICRO), 2018.Abstract

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are getting closer to becoming ubiquitous in everyday life. Among them, Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) have seen an outburst of attention recently, specifically in the area with a demand for autonomy. A key challenge standing in the way of making MAVs autonomous is that researchers lack the comprehensive understanding of how performance, power, and computational bottlenecks affect MAV applications. MAVs must operate under a stringent power budget, which severely limits their flight endurance time. As such, there is a need for new tools, benchmarks, and methodologies to foster the systematic development of autonomous MAVs. In this paper, we introduce the “MAVBench” framework which consists of a closed-loop simulator and an end-to-end application benchmark suite. A closed-loop simulation platform is needed to probe and understand the intra-system (application data flow) and inter-system (system and environment) interactions in MAV applications to pinpoint bottlenecks and identify opportunities for hardware and software co-design and optimization. In addition to the simulator, MAVBench provides a benchmark suite, the first of its kind, consisting of a variety of MAV applications designed to enable computer architects to perform characterization and develop future aerial computing systems. Using our open source, end-to-end experimental platform, we uncover a hidden, and thus far unexpected compute to total system energy relationship in MAVs. Furthermore, we explore the role of compute by presenting three case studies targeting performance, energy and reliability. These studies confirm that an efficient system design can improve MAV’s battery consumption by up to 1.8X.

Paper
B. Boroujerdian, H. Genc, S. Krishnan, A. Faust, and V. J. Reddi, “Why Compute Matters for UAV Energy Efficiency?” in 2nd International Symposium on Aerial Robotics, 2018, no. 6.Abstract

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are getting closer to becoming ubiquitous in everyday life. Although the researchers in the robotic domain have made rapid progress in recent years, hardware and software architects in the computer architecture community lack the comprehensive understanding of how performance, power, and computational bottlenecks affect UAV applications. Such an understanding enables system architects to design microchips tailored for aerial agents. This paper is an attempt by computer architects to initiate the discussion between the two academic domains by investigating the underlying compute systems’ impact on aerial robotic applications. To do so, we identify performance and energy constraints and examine the impact of various compute knobs such as processor cores and frequency on these constraints. Our experiment show that such knobs allow for up to 5X speed up for a wide class of applications.

Paper
2017
Y. Zhu, et al., “Cognitive Computing Safety: The New Horizon for Reliability/The Design and Evolution of Deep Learning Workloads,” IEEE Micro, no. 1, pp. 15–21, 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Recent advances in cognitive computing have brought widespread excitement for various machine learning–based intelligent services, ranging from autonomous vehicles to smart traffic-light systems. To push such cognitive services closer to reality, recent research has focused extensively on improving the performance, energy efficiency, privacy, and security of cognitive computing platforms.

Among all the issues, a rapidly rising and critical challenge to address is the practice of safe cognitive computing— that is, how to architect machine learning–based systems to be robust against uncertainty and failure to guarantee that they perform as intended without causing harmful behavior. Addressing the safety issue will involve close collaboration among different computing communities, and we believe computer architects must play a key role. In this position paper, we first discuss the meaning of safety and the severe implications of the safety issue in cognitive computing. We then provide a framework to reason about safety, and we outline several opportunities for the architecture community to help make cognitive computing safer.

Paper
H. Genc, Y. Zu, T. - W. Chin, M. Halpern, and V. J. Reddi, “Flying IoT: Toward Low-Power Vision in the Sky,” IEEE Micro, vol. 37, no. 6, pp. 40–51, 2017. Publisher's Version Paper