Object categorization for affordance prediction
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A fundamental requirement of any autonomous robot system is the ability to predict the affordances of its environment, which define how the robot can interact with various objects. In this dissertation, we demonstrate that the conventional direct perception approach can indeed be applied to the task of training robots to predict affordances, but it does not consider that objects can be grouped into categories such that objects of the same category have similar affordances. Although the connection between object categorization and the ability to make predictions of attributes has been extensively studied in cognitive science research, it has not been systematically applied to robotics in learning to predict a number of affordances from recognizing object categories. We develop a computational framework of learning and predicting affordances where a robot explicitly learns the categories of objects present in its environment in a partially supervised manner, and then conducts experiments to interact with the objects to both refine its model of categories and the category-affordance relationships. In comparison to the direct perception approach, we demonstrate that categories make the affordance learning problem scalable, in that they make more effective use of scarce training data and support efficient incremental learning of new affordance concepts. Another key aspect of our approach is to leverage the ability of a robot to perform experiments on its environment and thus gather information independent of a human trainer. We develop the theoretical underpinnings of category-based affordance learning and validate our theory on experiments with physically-situated robots. Finally, we refocus the object categorization problem of computer vision back to the theme of autonomous agents interacting with a physical world consisting of categories of objects. This enables us to reinterpret and extend the Gluck-Corter category utility function for the task of learning categorizations for affordance prediction.