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This paper focuses on evaluating the robustness and knowledge generalization properties of a model-free learning mechanism, applied for the kinematic control of robot manipulation chains based on a nested-hierarchical multi-agent architecture. In the proposed topology, the agents correspond to independent degrees-of-freedom (DOF) of the system, managing to gain experience over the task that they collaboratively perform by continuously exploring and exploiting their state-to-action mapping space. Each agent forms a local (partial) view of the global system state and task progress, through a recursive learning process. By organizing the agents in a nested topology, the goal is to facilitate modular scaling to more complex kinematic topologies, with loose control coupling among the agents. Reinforcement learning is applied within each agent, to evolve a local state-to-action mapping in a continuous domain, thus leading to a system that exhibits developmental properties. This work addresses problem settings in the domain of kinematic control of dexterous-redundant robot manipulation systems. The numerical experiments performed consider the case of a single-linkage open kinematic chain, presenting kinematic redundancies given the desired task-goal. The focal issue in these experiments is to assess the capacity of the proposed multi-agent system to progressively and autonomously acquire cooperative sensorimotor skills through a self-learning process, that is, without the use of any explicit model-based planning strategy. In this paper, generalization and robustness properties of the overall multi-agent system are explored. Furthermore, the proposed framework is evaluated in constrained motion tasks, both in static and non-static environments. The computational cost of the proposed multi-agent architecture is also assessed.
Date of Conference: 24-27 June 2012