Microsoft Future Leaders in Robotics and AI Seminar Series: Thomas Berrueta

Friday, April 26, 2024
2:30 p.m.
Online Seminar

Towards Transparent & Reliable Embodied Reinforcement Learning Agents

Thomas Berrueta 
PhD Candidate 
Northwestern University 

Zoom Link



The task-capabilities of robotic agents depend crucially on how their bodies materialize any action or decision made. Despite the clear importance of robot embodiment to decision-making, most algorithmic frameworks neglect or dismiss its impact. An important example of this lies in the widely used assumption that data are independent and identically distributed, which underpins all of machine learning. However, when data are collected sequentially from the experiences of agents this assumption does not generally hold, as is the case in most robotic reinforcement learning. In this talk, I will present a framework capable of overcoming these limitations by leveraging the statistical mechanics of ergodic processes, which I refer to as Maximum Diffusion Reinforcement Learning (MaxDiff RL). By measuring and exploiting statistical correlations, MaxDiff RL accounts for agent embodiment during learning and achieves provably robust state-of-the-art performance. Moreover, I will show that MaxDiff RL also provably enables agents to learn in continuous deployments. Taken together, I will argue that these results highlight future opportunities to formalize the role of robot embodiment during learning and control, paving the way towards more transparent and reliable embodied autonomy.


Thomas Berrueta is an interdisciplinary researcher and Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University's Center for Robotics and Biosystems. He is a recipient of Northwestern University's Presidential Fellowship, which is the highest honor conferred to a graduate student by the university. His research explores the consequences of agent embodiment on learning and control across length scales. At the intersection of statistical physics, artificial intelligence, and robotics, his work seeks to make autonomous systems more adaptable, robust, and life-like by exploiting randomness and uncertainty in ways that parallel biology.

Audience: Public 

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