Continual curiosity-driven skill acquisition from high-dimensional video inputs for humanoid robots

Varun Raj Kompella, Marijn Stollenga, Matthew Luciw, Juergen Schmidhuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


In the absence of external guidance, how can a robot learn to map the many raw pixels of high-dimensional visual inputs to useful action sequences? We propose here Continual Curiosity driven Skill Acquisition (CCSA). CCSA makes robots intrinsically motivated to acquire, store and reuse skills. Previous curiosity-based agents acquired skills by associating intrinsic rewards with world model improvements, and used reinforcement learning to learn how to get these intrinsic rewards. CCSA also does this, but unlike previous implementations, the world model is a set of compact low-dimensional representations of the streams of high-dimensional visual information, which are learned through incremental slow feature analysis. These representations augment the robot's state space with new information about the environment. We show how this information can have a higher-level (compared to pixels) and useful interpretation, for example, if the robot has grasped a cup in its field of view or not. After learning a representation, large intrinsic rewards are given to the robot for performing actions that greatly change the feature output, which has the tendency otherwise to change slowly in time. We show empirically what these actions are (e.g., grasping the cup) and how they can be useful as skills. An acquired skill includes both the learned actions and the learned slow feature representation. Skills are stored and reused to generate new observations, enabling continual acquisition of complex skills. We present results of experiments with an iCub humanoid robot that uses CCSA to incrementally acquire skills to topple, grasp and pick-place a cup, driven by its intrinsic motivation from raw pixel vision.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-335
Number of pages23
JournalArtificial Intelligence
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Generated from Scopus record by KAUST IRTS on 2022-09-14

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence


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