Google Research

Learning to Rearrange Deformable Cables, Fabrics, and Bags with Goal-Conditioned Transporter Networks

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) (2021)


Rearranging and manipulating deformable objects such as cables, fabrics, and bags is a long-standing challenge in robotic manipulation. The complex dynamics and high-dimensional configuration spaces of deformables, compared to rigid objects, make manipulation difficult not only for multi-step planning, but even for goal specification. Goals cannot be as easily specified as rigid object poses, and may involve complex relative spatial relations such as ``place the item inside the bag". In this work, we develop a suite of simulated benchmarks with 1D, 2D, and 3D deformable structures, including tasks that involve image-based goal-conditioning and multi-step deformable manipulation. We propose embedding goal-conditioning into Transporter Networks, a recently proposed model architecture for robotic manipulation that uses learned template matching to infer displacements that can represent pick and place actions. We demonstrate that goal-conditioned Transporter Networks enable agents to manipulate deformable structures into flexibly specified configurations without test-time visual anchors for target locations. We also significantly extend prior results using Transporter Networks for manipulating deformable objects by testing on tasks with 2D and 3D deformables.

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