Object-centric Forward Modeling for Model Predictive Control

Yufei Ye    Dhiraj Gandhi    Abhinav Gupta    Shubham Tulsiani   

Carnegie Mellon University    Facebook AI Research   

in CoRL 2019

Paper | Poster | Bibtex

We present an approach to learn an object-centric forward model, and show that this allows us to plan for sequences of actions to achieve distant desired goals. We propose to model a scene as a collection of objects, each with an explicit spatial location and implicit visual feature, and learn to model the effects of actions using random interaction data. Our model allows capturing the robot-object and object-object interactions, and leads to more sample-efficient and accurate predictions. We show that this learned model can be leveraged to search for action sequences that lead to desired goal configurations, and that in conjunction with a learned correction module, this allows for robust closed loop execution. We present experiments both in simulation and the real world, and show that our approach improves over alternate implicit or pixel-space forward models.

Method Overview

Left: We demonstrate MPC in testing time. Given a goal and initial configuration, the planner takes as input the object-centric representation (section 3.1) and outputs an action to execute. Then, a new observation is obtained to repeat the loop. Middle: Inside the planner, several action sequences are sampled and unrolled by the forward model (section 3.2). The best sequence with respect to the cost is selected, among which only the first action is executed (section 3.3). Right: The forward model P takes as input a representation of a scene with an action and predicts the next step. It is supervised by the ground-truth representation of the future.

paper thumbnail


arxiv, 2019.


Yufei Ye, Dhiraj Gandhi, Abhinav Gupta, and Shubham Tulsiani.
"Object-centric Forward Modeling for Model Predictive Control", in CoRL, 2019. Bibtex

Code & Data

code / Synthetic / Sawyer


Training Set Snapshots

Predictors are only trained with one-step

Qualitative Results in Simulation

Red: initial configuration; Blue: goal configuration

(click to view full resolution)

Qualitative Results on Sawyer

Pass around Objects

Flip Objects

Novel Objects

Ablation Study

Without Interaction Network (No-IN)


Unroll t=0 for T times with ground truth action.

Note: Prediction t+1 should be more consistent with predicted current state (t+1) than ground truth, since prediction is not perfect at any time.

Visualizing Correction Model

Green: Ground Truth; Brown: Prediction; Red: Corrected Prediction

Failure cases

Track the wrong object.Push off the table


We thank the reviewers for constructive comments. Yufei would like to thank Tao Chen and Lerrel Pinto for fruitful discussion. This work was supported by MURI N000141612007 and Young Investigator award. The webpage template was borrowed from some GAN folks.