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# From section 3.2:
wxyz = gtsam.DiscreteBayesNet()
W1 = VARIABLES.binary("W")
X1 = VARIABLES.binary("X")
Y1 = VARIABLES.binary("Y")
Z1 = VARIABLES.binary("Z")
wxyz.add(W1, [X1, Z1], "1/1 1/1 1/1 1/1")
wxyz.add(X1, [Y1, Z1], "1/1 1/1 1/1 1/1")
wxyz.add(Y1, [Z1], "1/1 1/1")
wxyz.add(Z1, "1/1")

N = 5
X = VARIABLES.discrete_series("X", range(1, N+1), vacuum.rooms)
A = VARIABLES.discrete_series("A", range(1, N), vacuum.action_space)

3.3. Dynamic Bayes Nets#

Dynamic Bayes nets replicate a Bayes net fragment over time.

Splash image with balancing steampunk robot sporting big eyes

The concepts we discussed in the previous section can be generalized to include sensing, and introduces a much more general framework that we will use over and over in this book. In particular, the controlled Markov chain over successive states \(X_t\) is an example of a Dynamic Bayes Net or DBN: a Bayes net in which Bayes net slices are replicated through time, to model the evolution of states over time. Below we add observations/measurements into the mix, and show how we can simulate the complete system using a more general technique called ancestral sampling.

While most of the sensor modeling here is mostly a reprise of Section 2.3, the concept of Dynamic Bayes Net is an incredible modeling tool that we will use over and over in this book. The notion of ancestral sampling is also very powerful and underlies simulation for much more general robot systems, not just the discrete-state model we consider here.

3.3.1. A Sensor Model#

A simple light sensor

This chapter is primarily focused on action, and hence the sensing we will consider is fairly straightforward. Let us conceive of a simple light sensor that we can use as a clue as to which room we are in. Specifically, let us assume for illustration’s sake that the living room and kitchen are on the south side, and hence have a lot of light on a typical day. The office in the dining room or on the north side, and the light sensor will typically respond with medium light levels. The hallway, on the other hand, is very dark as it has few windows. We can capture these semantics with a conditional probability distribution \(P(Z_t|X_t)\), where \(X_t\) is the state at time \(t\) as before, and \(Z_t\in\{\text{dark}, \text{medium}, \text{light}\}\) is the measured light level.

A small code snippet can create a reasonable sensor model:

# vacuum.light_levels = ["dark", "medium", "light"]
Z = VARIABLES.discrete_series("Z", range(1, N+1), vacuum.light_levels) # define variables
# vacuum.sensor_spec = "1/1/8 1/1/8 2/7/1 8/1/1 1/8/1"
pretty(gtsam.DiscreteConditional(Z[1], [X[1]], vacuum.sensor_spec)) # CPT on Z1 at time t=1


Living Room0.10.10.8
Dining Room0.10.80.1

Several things to notice:

  • this is again a discrete sensor; we have encountered these before in Chapter 2;

  • it is an imperfect sensor, and hence each room has a most likely outcome, but all outcomes are possible in all rooms;

  • the CPT (conditional probability table) above also captures modeling issues, such as varying light levels throughout the day. Exercise#

Change the values in the CPT and see how those changes affect the rest of the code in this section. Specifically, try some CPT versions where some outcomes have zero probability.

3.3.2. Dynamic Bayes Nets#

AXZ slices for the win!

Single time step reasoning will fall short for our vacuuming robot, which operates in time. In perception, the game is to estimate which state we are in given what we measured, but the ideas we discussed before will not apply directly. For example, recall the maximum likelihood method from the previous chapter, which we could try to apply here. In our case, given a sensor reading of, say, \(Z_1\)=medium, the maximum likelihood estimate (MLE) for the state \(X_1\) of the robot is dining room: it corresponds to the highest value in the medium column. But that takes only one measurement into account, even if we take many steps in the environment.

We use a dynamic Bayes net, a special type of Bayes net, to reason about multiple measurements. Intuitively, we should be able to use the robot’s history to obtain a better estimate of its location. For example, if the robot were just in the living room, there is no way that it could have gotten to the dining room in a single step. In this section we will see how we can reason probabilistically about such things.

The key lies in unrolling time in a graph. Recall that directed cycles are not allowed in a Bayes net, i.e., the graph is acyclic. Hence, one might wonder how we deal with time: if a robot is all about the sense-think-act cycle, would we not expect a cycle in the graph when describing robots? The answer is to unroll time, as we show below. When a Bayes net is used to unroll the evolution of a system or agent over time, we call it a dynamic Bayes net or DBN.

To illustrate this we will once again resort to code. The following piece of code builds the entire vacuuming robot dynamic Bayes net. Note that we take care to add CPTs of variables before we add the CPT on any of their parents (hence the reversed below) for reasons that will soon become clear:

dbn = gtsam.DiscreteBayesNet()
for k in range(1,N+1):
    dbn.add(Z[k], [X[k]], vacuum.sensor_spec) # Add measurement CPTs
for k in reversed(range(1, N)):
    dbn.add(X[k+1], [X[k], A[k]], vacuum.action_spec) # Add transition CPTs
dbn.add(X[1], "0/0/1/0/0") # Add initial state CPT
#| caption: A dynamic Bayes net modeling both actions and sensing.
#| label: fig:dbn_5
show(dbn, hints={"A":2, "X":1, "Z":0}, boxes={A[k][0] for k in range(1,N)})

Observe that after the first time step, the Bayes net is repeating the same “AXZ” pattern (or slice!) over and over again. Formally, the joint distribution \(P(Z_{1:n},X_{1:n}|A_{1:n})\) over states \(X_{1:n} \doteq (X_1 \dots, X_n)\) and measurements \(Z_{1:n} \doteq (Z_1, \dots , Z_n)\), given the action sequence \(A_{1:n} \doteq (A_1, \dots , A_n)\) can be computed, given the DBN factorization, as

\[ P(Z_{1:n},X_{1:n}|A_{1:n})= P(Z_1| X_1) P(X_1) \prod_{k=2}^{n} P(Z_k| X_k) P(X_k|A_{k-1},X_{k-1}). \]

The AXZ slice at time \(k\) is given by \(P(Z_k| X_k) P(X_k|A_{k-1},X_{k-1})\), whereas the chain is “jump-started” using the initial state distribution \(P(X_1)\) and the corresponding measurement model \(P(Z_1|X_1)\).

3.3.3. Ancestral Sampling#

Ancestry matters!

How do we sample over such a complex Bayes net? Recall the example Bayes net example above with the four variables W,X,Y,Z, and joint distribution

#| caption: The Bayes net for the four-variable problem we considered before.
#| label: fig:bayes_net_4

Sampling from the joint distribution given in Bayes net form can be done by sampling each variable in turn, but making sure that we always sample a node’s parents first. This can be done through the notion of a topological sort of the DAG. A topological sort of a DAG is an ordering of the vertices \(\{v_1, \dots , v_n\}\) such that \(v_i\) precedes \(v_j\) in the sort when there is a directed edge from \(v_i\) to \(v_j\) in the DAG.

An easy algorithm to obtain a topological sort is Kahn’s algorithm, which iteratively removes nodes from the graph that either have no parents, or whose parents have all been removed already. The order in which nodes are removed constitutes a (non-unique) topological sort order.

Sampling is then done by sampling from each variable separately, in topological sort order, as doing so will ensure its parents’ values are already available. The example graph above happens to be laid out already in topological sort order, if read from top to bottom. Hence, in this example we sample first \(Z\), then \(Y\), then \(X\), and then \(W\). Note that in this case the topological sort happens to be unique, but that is an exception rather than the rule: for arbitrary Bayes nets, more than one topological sort can exist.

3.3.4. Simulation of a Robot#

Simulation as sampling, once again!

Simulation of a robot is then equivalent to ancestral sampling from the DBN associated with the robot, i.e., the controlled Markov chain augmented with the measurement CPTs. In this case one topological sort is rather obvious, and so is a simulation algorithm to sample from \(P(X_{1:n},Z_{1:n}|A_{1:n})\):

  1. First, assign \(k\leftarrow1\), and sample the initial state \(x_1\) from \(P(X_1)\), a prior over the state. We write

    \[x_1 \sim P(X_1)\]
  2. Next, simulate the sensor reading by sampling from the sensor model

    \[z_{k} \sim P(Z_{k}|X_{k}=x_{k})\]
  3. Lastly, simulate the effect of the (given) action \(a_k\) by sampling the next state \(x_{k+1}\):

    \[x_{k+1} \sim P(X_{k+1}|X_{k}=s_{k},A_{k}=a_{k}).\]
  4. Increase \(k\leftarrow k+1\) and return to step \(2\).

Note that this algorithm is generic for all robot models with this action/sensing structure. Exercises#

  1. Simulate two different realizations from the dynamic Bayes net above.

  2. Think of a different way to topologically sort the graph, and the corresponding sampling algorithm.

3.3.5. Ancestral Sampling with GTSAM#

Simulation in code

Of course, GTSAM has a method built in to do ancestral sampling, but it only works for a reverse topologically sorted Bayes net. This matches the way we write down joint distributions, with parents towards the right, and it is also why above we used the built-in reversed on the range: this was to make sure that later states get sampled last. Because in our code above we only specified \(P(Z_{1:n},X_{1:n}|A_{1:n})\), and specifically did not provide a distribution over actions, we need to give an action sequence \(a_{1:n}\) as an argument.

As an example, below we examine what happens when we try the action Right 4 times in a row:

actions = VARIABLES.assignment({A[k]: "R" for k in range(1,N)})
X4Dining Room
X5Dining Room

The actions are included in the resulting DiscreteValues instance, so we have a complete picture of one sampled “world state” over time. Note that the result now also includes the sampled measurements \(Z_k\) at each time step, in addition to the states \(X_k\). Not surprisingly, we quickly transition from the dark hallway to the slight brighter dining room, and get stuck there, as there is no room to the right of the dining room! Exercises#

  • Execute the cell above multiple times and observe you do get different realizations (almost) every time.

  • Try doing the same with different action sequences.

  • Try formulating an action sequence that gets you to the kitchen. Does it always succeed?

3.3.6. GTSAM 101#

The GTSAM concepts used in this section, explained.

We use the gtsam.DiscreteBayesNet method sample, with signature

    sample(self, given: gtsam::DiscreteValues) -> gtsam::DiscreteValues

It implements ancestral sampling, but does assume that the Bayes net is reverse topologically sorted, i.e. last conditional will be sampled first. In addition, it can optionally take an assignment for certain given variables, as a gtsam.DiscreteValues instance. In that case, it is also assumed that the Bayes net does not contain any conditionals for the given values. We used this functionality to pass the given action sequence above.