Wasserstein Gradient Flows for Optimizing Gaussian Mixture Policies

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Hanna Ziesche, Leonel Rozo


Robots often rely on a repertoire of previously-learned motion policies for performing tasks of diverse complexities. When facing unseen task conditions or when new task requirements arise, robots must adapt their motion policies accordingly. In this context, policy optimization is the \emph{de facto} paradigm to adapt robot policies as a function of task-specific objectives. Most commonly-used motion policies carry particular structures that are often overlooked in policy optimization algorithms. We instead propose to leverage the structure of probabilistic policies by casting the policy optimization as an optimal transport problem. Specifically, we focus on robot motion policies that build on Gaussian mixture models (GMMs) and formulate the policy optimization as a Wassertein gradient flow over the GMMs space. This naturally allows us to constrain the policy updates via the $L^2$-Wasserstein distance between GMMs to enhance the stability of the policy optimization process. Furthermore, we leverage the geometry of the Bures-Wasserstein manifold to optimize the Gaussian distributions of the GMM policy via Riemannian optimization. We evaluate our approach on common robotic settings: Reaching motions, collision-avoidance behaviors, and multi-goal tasks. Our results show that our method outperforms common policy optimization baselines in terms of task success rate and low-variance solutions.