Contact Points Discovery for Soft-Body Manipulations with Differentiable Physics



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Differentiable physics has recently been shown as a powerful tool for solving soft-body manipulation tasks. However, the differentiable physics solver often gets stuck when the initial contact points of the end effectors are sub-optimal or when performing multi-stage tasks that require contact point switching, which often leads to local minima. To address this challenge, we propose a contact point discovery approach (CPDeform) that guides the stand-alone differentiable physics solver to deform various soft-body plasticines. The key idea of our approach is to integrate optimal transport-based contact points discovery into the differentiable physics solver to overcome the local minima from initial contact points or contact switching. On single-stage tasks, our method can automatically find suitable initial contact points based on transport priorities. On complex multi-stage tasks, we can iteratively switch the contact points of end-effectors based on transport priorities. To evaluate the effectiveness of our method, we introduce PlasticineLab-M that extends the existing differentiable physics benchmark PlasticineLab to seven new challenging multi-stage soft-body manipulation tasks. Extensive experimental results suggest that: 1) on multi-stage tasks that are infeasible for the vanilla differentiable physics solver, our approach discovers contact points that efficiently guide the solver to completion; 2) on tasks where the vanilla solver performs sub-optimally or near-optimally, our contact point discovery method performs better than or on par with the manipulation performance obtained with handcrafted contact points. Demos are available on our project page.

Please cite our work using the BibTeX below.

title={Contact Points Discovery for Soft-Body Manipulations with Differentiable Physics},
author={Sizhe Li and Zhiao Huang and Tao Du and Hao Su and Joshua B. Tenenbaum and Chuang Gan},
booktitle={International Conference on Learning Representations},
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