Planning to see: A hierarchical approach to planning visual actions on a robot using POMDPs
Artificial Intelligence, 2010
Flexible, general-purpose robots need to autonomously tailor their sensing and information processing to the task at hand. We pose this challenge as the task of planning under uncertainty. In our domain, the goal is to plan a sequence of visual operators to apply on regions of interest (ROIs) in images of a scene, so that a human and a robot can jointly manipulate and converse about objects on a tabletop. We pose visual processing management as an instance of probabilistic sequential decision making, and specifically as a Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP). The POMDP formulation uses models that quantitatively capture the unreliability of the operators and enable a robot to reason precisely about the trade-offs between plan reliability and plan execution time. Since planning in practical-sized POMDPs is intractable, we partially ameliorate this intractability for visual processing by defining a novel hierarchical POMDP based on the cognitive requirements of the corresponding planning task. We compare our hierarchical POMDP planning system (HiPPo) with a non-hierarchical POMDP formulation and the Continual Planning (CP) framework that handles uncertainty in a qualitative manner. We show empirically that HiPPo and CP outperform the naive application of all visual operators on all ROIs. The key result is that the POMDP methods produce more robust plans than CP or the naive visual processing. In summary, visual processing problems represent a challenging domain for planning techniques and our hierarchical POMDP-based approach for visual processing management opens up a promising new line of research.