Model-Based Control with Sparse Neural Dynamics

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Ziang Liu, Genggeng Zhou, Jeff He, Tobia Marcucci, Fei-Fei Li, Jiajun Wu, Yunzhu Li


Learning predictive models from observations using deep neural networks (DNNs) is a promising new approach to many real-world planning and control problems. However, common DNNs are too unstructured for effective planning, and current control methods typically rely on extensive sampling or local gradient descent. In this paper, we propose a new framework for integrated model learning and predictive control that is amenable to efficient optimization algorithms. Specifically, we start with a ReLU neural model of the system dynamics and, with minimal losses in prediction accuracy, we gradually sparsify it by removing redundant neurons. This discrete sparsification process is approximated as a continuous problem, enabling an end-to-end optimization of both the model architecture and the weight parameters. The sparsified model is subsequently used by a mixed-integer predictive controller, which represents the neuron activations as binary variables and employs efficient branch-and-bound algorithms. Our framework is applicable to a wide variety of DNNs, from simple multilayer perceptrons to complex graph neural dynamics. It can efficiently handle tasks involving complicated contact dynamics, such as object pushing, compositional object sorting, and manipulation of deformable objects. Numerical and hardware experiments show that, despite the aggressive sparsification, our framework can deliver better closed-loop performance than existing state-of-the-art methods.