Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Sonia Chernova, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Charles Rich, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Craig E. Wills, Department Head

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Carolina Ruiz, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Odest Chadwicke Jenkins, Committee Member




Traditional methods for Learning from Demonstration require users to train the robot through the entire process, or to provide feedback throughout a given task. These previous methods have proved to be successful in a selection of robotic domains; however, many are limited by the ability of the user to effectively demonstrate the task. In many cases, noisy demonstrations or a failure to understand the underlying model prevent these methods from working with a wider range of non-expert users. My insight is that in many mobile pick-and-place domains, teaching is done at a too fine grained level. In many such tasks, users are solely concerned with the end goal. This implies that the complexity and time associated with training and teaching robots through the entirety of the task is unnecessary. The robotic agent needs to know (1) a probable search location to retrieve the task's objects and (2) how to arrange the items to complete the task. This thesis work develops new techniques for obtaining such data from high-level spatial and temporal observations and demonstrations which can later be applied in new, unseen environments. This thesis makes the following contributions: (1) This work is built on a crowd robotics platform and, as such, we contribute the development of efficient data streaming techniques to further these capabilities. By doing so, users can more easily interact with robots on a number of platforms. (2) The presentation of new algorithms that can learn pick-and-place tasks from a large corpus of goal templates. My work contributes algorithms that produce a metric which ranks the appropriate frame of reference for each item based solely on spatial demonstrations. (3) An algorithm which can enhance the above templates with ordering constraints using coarse and noisy temporal information. Such a method eliminates the need for a user to explicitly specify such constraints and searches for an optimal ordering and placement of items. (4) A novel algorithm which is able to learn probable search locations of objects based solely on sparsely made temporal observations. For this, we introduce persistence models of objects customized to a user's environment.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Computer Science

Project Type


Date Accepted





robotics, learning from demonstration, cloud robotics, active visual search