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Learning to Serve: An Experimental Study for a New Learning From Demonstrations Framework

Okan Koc; Jan Peters
In: IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L), Vol. 4, No. 2, Pages 1784-1791, IEEE, 2019.


Learning from demonstrations is an easy and intuitive way to show examples of successful behavior to a robot. However, the fact that humans optimize or take advantage of their body and not of the robot, usually called the embodiment problem in robotics, often prevents industrial robots from executing the task in a straightforward way. The shown movements often do not or cannot utilize the degrees of freedom of the robot efficiently, and moreover suffer from excessive execution errors. In this paper, we explore a variety of solutions that address these shortcomings. In particular, we learn sparse movement primitive parameters from several demonstrations of a successful table tennis serve. The number of parameters learned using our procedure is independent of the degrees of freedom of the robot. Moreover, they can be ranked according to their importance in the regression task. Learning few parameters that are ranked is a desirable feature to combat the curse of dimensionality in Reinforcement Learning. Preliminary real robot experiments on the Barrett WAM for a table tennis serve using the learned movement primitives show that the representation can capture successfully the style of the movement with few parameters.

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