Robotics: Science and Systems XVII

Language Conditioned Imitation Learning Over Unstructured Data

Corey Lynch*, Pierre Sermanet*
* These authors contributed equally


Natural language is perhaps the most flexible and intuitive way for humans to communicate tasks to a robot. Prior work in imitation learning typically requires each task be specified with a task id or goal image—something that is often impractical in open-world environments. On the other hand; previous approaches in instruction following allow agent behavior to be guided by language; but typically assume structure in the observations; actuators; or language that limit their applicability to complex settings like robotics. In this work; we present a method for incorporating free-form natural language conditioning into imitation learning. Our approach learns perception from pixels; natural language understanding; and multitask continuous control end-to-end as a single neural network. Unlike prior work in imitation learning; our method is able to incorporate unlabeled and unstructured demonstration data (i.e. no task or language labels). We show this dramatically improves language conditioned performance; while reducing the cost of language annotation to less than 1% of total data. At test time; a single language conditioned visuomotor policy trained with our method can perform a wide variety of robotic manipulation skills in a 3D environment; specified only with natural language descriptions of each task (e.g. "open the pick up the press the green button...") (see video). To scale up the number of instructions an agent can follow; we propose combining text conditioned policies with large pretrained neural language models. We find this allows a policy to be robust to many out-of-distribution synonym instructions; without requiring new demonstrations. See videos of a human typing live text commands to our agent at



    AUTHOR    = {Corey Lynch AND Pierre Sermanet}, 
    TITLE     = {{Language Conditioned Imitation Learning Over Unstructured Data}}, 
    BOOKTITLE = {Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems}, 
    YEAR      = {2021}, 
    ADDRESS   = {Virtual}, 
    MONTH     = {July}, 
    DOI       = {10.15607/RSS.2021.XVII.047}