Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)
Yaofeng Desmond Zhong, Naomi Leonard
Recent approaches for modelling dynamics of physical systems with neural networks enforce Lagrangian or Hamiltonian structure to improve prediction and generalization. However, when coordinates are embedded in high-dimensional data such as images, these approaches either lose interpretability or can only be applied to one particular example. We introduce a new unsupervised neural network model that learns Lagrangian dynamics from images, with interpretability that benefits prediction and control. The model infers Lagrangian dynamics on generalized coordinates that are simultaneously learned with a coordinate-aware variational autoencoder (VAE). The VAE is designed to account for the geometry of physical systems composed of multiple rigid bodies in the plane. By inferring interpretable Lagrangian dynamics, the model learns physical system properties, such as kinetic and potential energy, which enables long-term prediction of dynamics in the image space and synthesis of energy-based controllers.