Proceedings of the First Workshop on Language Grounding for Robotics

Mohit Bansal, Cynthia Matuszek, Jacob Andreas, Yoav Artzi, Yonatan Bisk (Editors)

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Vancouver, Canada
Association for Computational Linguistics
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Proceedings of the First Workshop on Language Grounding for Robotics
Mohit Bansal | Cynthia Matuszek | Jacob Andreas | Yoav Artzi | Yonatan Bisk

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Grounding Language for Interactive Task Learning
Peter Lindes | Aaron Mininger | James R. Kirk | John E. Laird

This paper describes how language is grounded by a comprehension system called Lucia within a robotic agent called Rosie that can manipulate objects and navigate indoors. The whole system is built within the Soar cognitive architecture and uses Embodied Construction Grammar (ECG) as a formalism for describing linguistic knowledge. Grounding is performed using knowledge from the grammar itself, from the linguistic context, from the agents perception, and from an ontology of long-term knowledge about object categories and properties and actions the agent can perform. The paper also describes a benchmark corpus of 200 sentences in this domain along with test versions of the world model and ontology and gold-standard meanings for each of the sentences. The benchmark is contained in the supplemental materials.

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Learning how to Learn: An Adaptive Dialogue Agent for Incrementally Learning Visually Grounded Word Meanings
Yanchao Yu | Arash Eshghi | Oliver Lemon

We present an optimised multi-modal dialogue agent for interactive learning of visually grounded word meanings from a human tutor, trained on real human-human tutoring data. Within a life-long interactive learning period, the agent, trained using Reinforcement Learning (RL), must be able to handle natural conversations with human users, and achieve good learning performance (i.e. accuracy) while minimising human effort in the learning process. We train and evaluate this system in interaction with a simulated human tutor, which is built on the BURCHAK corpus – a Human-Human Dialogue dataset for the visual learning task. The results show that: 1) The learned policy can coherently interact with the simulated user to achieve the goal of the task (i.e. learning visual attributes of objects, e.g. colour and shape); and 2) it finds a better trade-off between classifier accuracy and tutoring costs than hand-crafted rule-based policies, including ones with dynamic policies.

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Guiding Interaction Behaviors for Multi-modal Grounded Language Learning
Jesse Thomason | Jivko Sinapov | Raymond Mooney

Multi-modal grounded language learning connects language predicates to physical properties of objects in the world. Sensing with multiple modalities, such as audio, haptics, and visual colors and shapes while performing interaction behaviors like lifting, dropping, and looking on objects enables a robot to ground non-visual predicates like “empty” as well as visual predicates like “red”. Previous work has established that grounding in multi-modal space improves performance on object retrieval from human descriptions. In this work, we gather behavior annotations from humans and demonstrate that these improve language grounding performance by allowing a system to focus on relevant behaviors for words like “white” or “half-full” that can be understood by looking or lifting, respectively. We also explore adding modality annotations (whether to focus on audio or haptics when performing a behavior), which improves performance, and sharing information between linguistically related predicates (if “green” is a color, “white” is a color), which improves grounding recall but at the cost of precision.

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Structured Learning for Context-aware Spoken Language Understanding of Robotic Commands
Andrea Vanzo | Danilo Croce | Roberto Basili | Daniele Nardi

Service robots are expected to operate in specific environments, where the presence of humans plays a key role. A major feature of such robotics platforms is thus the ability to react to spoken commands. This requires the understanding of the user utterance with an accuracy able to trigger the robot reaction. Such correct interpretation of linguistic exchanges depends on physical, cognitive and language-dependent aspects related to the environment. In this work, we present the empirical evaluation of an adaptive Spoken Language Understanding chain for robotic commands, that explicitly depends on the operational environment during both the learning and recognition stages. The effectiveness of such a context-sensitive command interpretation is tested against an extension of an already existing corpus of commands, that introduced explicit perceptual knowledge: this enabled deeper measures proving that more accurate disambiguation capabilities can be actually obtained.

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Natural Language Grounding and Grammar Induction for Robotic Manipulation Commands
Muhannad Alomari | Paul Duckworth | Majd Hawasly | David C. Hogg | Anthony G. Cohn

We present a cognitively plausible system capable of acquiring knowledge in language and vision from pairs of short video clips and linguistic descriptions. The aim of this work is to teach a robot manipulator how to execute natural language commands by demonstration. This is achieved by first learning a set of visual ‘concepts’ that abstract the visual feature spaces into concepts that have human-level meaning. Second, learning the mapping/grounding between words and the extracted visual concepts. Third, inducing grammar rules via a semantic representation known as Robot Control Language (RCL). We evaluate our approach against state-of-the-art supervised and unsupervised grounding and grammar induction systems, and show that a robot can learn to execute never seen-before commands from pairs of unlabelled linguistic and visual inputs.

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Communication with Robots using Multilayer Recurrent Networks
Bedřich Pišl | David Mareček

In this paper, we describe an improvement on the task of giving instructions to robots in a simulated block world using unrestricted natural language commands.

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Grounding Symbols in Multi-Modal Instructions
Yordan Hristov | Svetlin Penkov | Alex Lascarides | Subramanian Ramamoorthy

As robots begin to cohabit with humans in semi-structured environments, the need arises to understand instructions involving rich variability—for instance, learning to ground symbols in the physical world. Realistically, this task must cope with small datasets consisting of a particular users’ contextual assignment of meaning to terms. We present a method for processing a raw stream of cross-modal input—i.e., linguistic instructions, visual perception of a scene and a concurrent trace of 3D eye tracking fixations—to produce the segmentation of objects with a correspondent association to high-level concepts. To test our framework we present experiments in a table-top object manipulation scenario. Our results show our model learns the user’s notion of colour and shape from a small number of physical demonstrations, generalising to identifying physical referents for novel combinations of the words.

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Exploring Variation of Natural Human Commands to a Robot in a Collaborative Navigation Task
Matthew Marge | Claire Bonial | Ashley Foots | Cory Hayes | Cassidy Henry | Kimberly Pollard | Ron Artstein | Clare Voss | David Traum

Robot-directed communication is variable, and may change based on human perception of robot capabilities. To collect training data for a dialogue system and to investigate possible communication changes over time, we developed a Wizard-of-Oz study that (a) simulates a robot’s limited understanding, and (b) collects dialogues where human participants build a progressively better mental model of the robot’s understanding. With ten participants, we collected ten hours of human-robot dialogue. We analyzed the structure of instructions that participants gave to a remote robot before it responded. Our findings show a general initial preference for including metric information (e.g., move forward 3 feet) over landmarks (e.g., move to the desk) in motion commands, but this decreased over time, suggesting changes in perception.

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A Tale of Two DRAGGNs: A Hybrid Approach for Interpreting Action-Oriented and Goal-Oriented Instructions
Siddharth Karamcheti | Edward Clem Williams | Dilip Arumugam | Mina Rhee | Nakul Gopalan | Lawson L.S. Wong | Stefanie Tellex

Robots operating alongside humans in diverse, stochastic environments must be able to accurately interpret natural language commands. These instructions often fall into one of two categories: those that specify a goal condition or target state, and those that specify explicit actions, or how to perform a given task. Recent approaches have used reward functions as a semantic representation of goal-based commands, which allows for the use of a state-of-the-art planner to find a policy for the given task. However, these reward functions cannot be directly used to represent action-oriented commands. We introduce a new hybrid approach, the Deep Recurrent Action-Goal Grounding Network (DRAGGN), for task grounding and execution that handles natural language from either category as input, and generalizes to unseen environments. Our robot-simulation results demonstrate that a system successfully interpreting both goal-oriented and action-oriented task specifications brings us closer to robust natural language understanding for human-robot interaction.

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Are Distributional Representations Ready for the Real World? Evaluating Word Vectors for Grounded Perceptual Meaning
Li Lucy | Jon Gauthier

Distributional word representation methods exploit word co-occurrences to build compact vector encodings of words. While these representations enjoy widespread use in modern natural language processing, it is unclear whether they accurately encode all necessary facets of conceptual meaning. In this paper, we evaluate how well these representations can predict perceptual and conceptual features of concrete concepts, drawing on two semantic norm datasets sourced from human participants. We find that several standard word representations fail to encode many salient perceptual features of concepts, and show that these deficits correlate with word-word similarity prediction errors. Our analyses provide motivation for grounded and embodied language learning approaches, which may help to remedy these deficits.

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Sympathy Begins with a Smile, Intelligence Begins with a Word: Use of Multimodal Features in Spoken Human-Robot Interaction
Jekaterina Novikova | Christian Dondrup | Ioannis Papaioannou | Oliver Lemon

Recognition of social signals, coming from human facial expressions or prosody of human speech, is a popular research topic in human-robot interaction studies. There is also a long line of research in the spoken dialogue community that investigates user satisfaction in relation to dialogue characteristics. However, very little research relates a combination of multimodal social signals and language features detected during spoken face-to-face human-robot interaction to the resulting user perception of a robot. In this paper we show how different emotional facial expressions of human users, in combination with prosodic characteristics of human speech and features of human-robot dialogue, correlate with users’ impressions of the robot after a conversation. We find that happiness in the user’s recognised facial expression strongly correlates with likeability of a robot, while dialogue-related features (such as number of human turns or number of sentences per robot utterance) correlate with perceiving a robot as intelligent. In addition, we show that the facial expression emotional features and prosody are better predictors of human ratings related to perceived robot likeability and anthropomorphism, while linguistic and non-linguistic features more often predict perceived robot intelligence and interpretability. As such, these characteristics may in future be used as an online reward signal for in-situ Reinforcement Learning-based adaptive human-robot dialogue systems.

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Towards Problem Solving Agents that Communicate and Learn
Anjali Narayan-Chen | Colin Graber | Mayukh Das | Md Rakibul Islam | Soham Dan | Sriraam Natarajan | Janardhan Rao Doppa | Julia Hockenmaier | Martha Palmer | Dan Roth

Agents that communicate back and forth with humans to help them execute non-linguistic tasks are a long sought goal of AI. These agents need to translate between utterances and actionable meaning representations that can be interpreted by task-specific problem solvers in a context-dependent manner. They should also be able to learn such actionable interpretations for new predicates on the fly. We define an agent architecture for this scenario and present a series of experiments in the Blocks World domain that illustrate how our architecture supports language learning and problem solving in this domain.