Improving user specifications for robot behavior through active preference learning: framework and evaluation

Nils Wilde, Alexandru Blidaru, Stephen L. Smith, Dana Kulić

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6 Citations (Scopus)


An important challenge in human–robot interaction (HRI) is enabling non-expert users to specify complex tasks for autonomous robots. Recently, active preference learning has been applied in HRI to interactively shape a robot’s behavior. We study a framework where users specify constraints on allowable robot movements on a graphical interface, yielding a robot task specification. However, users may not be able to accurately assess the impact of such constraints on the performance of a robot. Thus, we revise the specification by iteratively presenting users with alternative solutions where some constraints might be violated, and learn about the importance of the constraints from the users’ choices between these alternatives. We demonstrate our framework in a user study with a material transport task in an industrial facility. We show that nearly all users accept alternative solutions and thus obtain a revised specification through the learning process, and that the revision leads to a substantial improvement in robot performance. Further, the learning process reduces the variances between the specifications from different users and, thus, makes the specifications more similar. As a result, the users whose initial specifications had the largest impact on performance benefit the most from the interactive learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-667
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Robotics Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Cognitive HRI
  • motion planning

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