Google Research

Sim-to-Real Transfer for Vision-and-Language Navigation

  • Peter Anderson
  • Ayush Shrivastava
  • Joanne Truong
  • Arjun Majumdar
  • Devi Parikh
  • Dhruv Batra
  • Stefan Lee
Conference on Robot Learning (CoRL) (2020)


We study the challenging problem of releasing a robot in a previously unseen environment, and having it follow unconstrained natural language navigation instructions. Recent work on the task of Vision-and-Language Navigation (VLN) has achieved significant progress in simulation. To assess the implications of this work for robotics, we transfer a VLN agent trained in simulation to a physical robot. To bridge the gap between the high-level discrete action space learned by the VLN agent, and the robot’s low-level continuous action space, we propose a subgoal model to identify nearby waypoints, and use domain randomization to mitigate visual domain differences. For accurate sim and real comparisons in parallel environments, we annotate a 325m2 office space with 1.3km of navigation instructions, and create a digitized replica in simulation. We find that sim-to-real transfer to an environment not seen in training is successful if an occupancy map and navigation graph can be collected and annotated in advance (success rate of 46.8% vs. 55.9% in sim), but much more challenging in the hardest setting with no prior mapping at all (success rate of 22.5%).

Learn more about how we do research

We maintain a portfolio of research projects, providing individuals and teams the freedom to emphasize specific types of work