Grounding Spatio-Temporal Language with Transformers

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

Paper

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Authors

Tristan Karch, Laetitia Teodorescu, Katja Hofmann, Clément Moulin-Frier, Pierre-Yves Oudeyer

Abstract

Language is an interface to the outside world. In order for embodied agents to use it, language must be grounded in other, sensorimotor modalities. While there is an extended literature studying how machines can learn grounded language, the topic of how to learn spatio-temporal linguistic concepts is still largely uncharted. To make progress in this direction, we here introduce a novel spatio-temporal language grounding task where the goal is to learn the meaning of spatio-temporal descriptions of behavioral traces of an embodied agent. This is achieved by training a truth function that predicts if a description matches a given history of observations. The descriptions involve time-extended predicates in past and present tense as well as spatio-temporal references to objects in the scene. To study the role of architectural biases in this task, we train several models including multimodal Transformer architectures; the latter implement different attention computations between words and objects across space and time. We test models on two classes of generalization: 1) generalization to new sentences, 2) generalization to grammar primitives. We observe that maintaining object identity in the attention computation of our Transformers is instrumental to achieving good performance on generalization overall, and that summarizing object traces in a single token has little influence on performance. We then discuss how this opens new perspectives for language-guided autonomous embodied agents.