Hierarchical Learning of Navigational Behaviors in an Autonomous Robot using a Predictive Sparse Distributed Memory*

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We describe a general framework for learning perception-based navigational behaviors in autonomous mobile robots. A hierarchical behavior-based decomposition of the control architecture is used to facilitate efficient modular learning. Lower level reactive behaviors such as collision detection and obstacle avoidance are learned using a stochastic hill-climbing method while higher level goal-directed navigation is achieved using a self-organizing sparse distributed memory. The memory is initially trained by teleoperating the robot on a small number of paths within a given domain of interest. During training, the vectors in the sensory space as well as the motor space are continually adapted using a form of competitive learning to yield basis vectors that efficiently span the sensorimotor space. After training, the robot navigates from arbitrary locations to a desired goal location using motor output vectors computed by a saliency-based weighted averaging scheme. The pervasive problem of perceptual aliasing in finite-order Markovian environments is handled by allowing both current as well as the set of immediately preceding perceptual inputs to predict the motor output vector for the current time instant. We describe experimental and simulation results obtained using a mobile robot equipped with bump sensors, photosensors and infrared receivers, navigating within an enclosed obstacle-ridden arena. The results indicate that the method performs successfully in a number of navigational tasks exhibiting varying degrees of perceptual aliasing.

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