Roboschool simulations of physical robotics with Amazon SageMaker


NOTE: Roboschool is deprecated so this notebook may be replaced in the future with PyBullet.

Roboschool is an open source physics simulator that is commonly used to train RL policies for simulated robotic systems. Roboschool provides 3D visualization of physical systems with multiple joints in contact with each other and their environment.

This notebook will show how to install Roboschool into the SageMaker RL container, and train pre-built robotics applications that are included with Roboschool.


Roboschool defines a variety of Gym environments that correspond to different robotics problems. Here we are using Reacher as an example. Reacher is a very simple robot with just 2 joints reaches for a target.

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roboschool_problem = "reacher"



To get started, we’ll import the Python libraries we need, set up the environment with a few prerequisites for permissions and configurations.

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import sagemaker
import boto3
import sys
import os
import glob
import re
import subprocess
import numpy as np
from IPython.display import HTML
import time
from time import gmtime, strftime

from misc import get_execution_role, wait_for_s3_object
from docker_utils import build_and_push_docker_image
from sagemaker.rl import RLEstimator, RLToolkit, RLFramework

Setup S3 bucket

Set up the linkage and authentication to the S3 bucket that you want to use for checkpoint and the metadata.

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sage_session = sagemaker.session.Session()
s3_bucket = sage_session.default_bucket()
s3_output_path = "s3://{}/".format(s3_bucket)
print("S3 bucket path: {}".format(s3_output_path))

Define Variables

We define variables such as the job prefix and frameworks for the training jobs, to fetch the latest docker container to train your RL agent. You can also provide an image path for a custom container (only when this is BYOC).

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# create a descriptive job name
job_name_prefix = "rl-roboschool-" + roboschool_problem

Configure where training happens

You can train your RL training jobs using the SageMaker notebook instance or local notebook instance. In both of these scenarios, you can run the following in either local or SageMaker modes. The local mode uses the SageMaker Python SDK to run your code in a local container before deploying to SageMaker. This can speed up iterative testing and debugging while using the same familiar Python SDK interface. You just need to set local_mode = True.

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# run in local_mode on this machine, or as a SageMaker TrainingJob?
local_mode = False

if local_mode:
    instance_type = "local"
    # If on SageMaker, pick the instance type.
    instance_type = "ml.p3.8xlarge"

if "ml.p" in instance_type or "ml.g" in instance_type:
    cpu_or_gpu = "gpu"
    cpu_or_gpu = "cpu"
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train_instance_count = 1

Create an IAM role

Either get the execution role when running from a SageMaker notebook instance role = sagemaker.get_execution_role() or, when running from local notebook instance, use utils method role = get_execution_role() to create an execution role.

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    role = sagemaker.get_execution_role()
    role = get_execution_role()

print("Using IAM role arn: {}".format(role))

Install docker for local mode

In order to work in local mode, you need to have docker installed. When running from you local machine, please make sure that you have docker and docker-compose (for local CPU machines) and nvidia-docker (for local GPU machines) installed. Alternatively, when running from a SageMaker notebook instance, you can simply run the following script to install dependenceis.

Note, you can only run a single local notebook at one time.

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# only run from SageMaker notebook instance
if local_mode:
    !/bin/bash ./common/

Build docker container

We must build a custom docker container with Roboschool installed. This takes care of everything:

  1. Fetching base container image

  2. Installing Roboschool and its dependencies

  3. Uploading the new container image to ECR

This step can take a long time if you are running on a machine with a slow internet connection. If your notebook instance is in SageMaker or EC2 it should take 3-10 minutes depending on the instance type.

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repository_short_name = "sagemaker-roboschool-ray-%s" % cpu_or_gpu
docker_build_args = {
    "CPU_OR_GPU": cpu_or_gpu,
    "AWS_REGION": boto3.Session().region_name,
custom_image_name = build_and_push_docker_image(repository_short_name, build_args=docker_build_args)
print("Using ECR image %s" % custom_image_name)

Write the Training Code

The training code is written in the file “” which is uploaded in the /src directory. First import the environment files and the preset files, and then define the main() function.

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!pygmentize src/train-{roboschool_problem}.py

Train the RL model using the Python SDK Script mode

If you are using local mode, the training will run on the notebook instance. When using SageMaker for training, you can select a GPU or CPU instance. The RLEstimator is used for training RL jobs.

  1. Specify the source directory where the environment, presets and training code is uploaded.

  2. Specify the entry point as the training code

  3. Specify the choice of RL toolkit and framework. This automatically resolves to the ECR path for the RL Container.

  4. Define the training parameters such as the instance count, job name, S3 path for output and job name.

  5. Specify the hyperparameters for the RL agent algorithm. The RLCOACH_PRESET or the RLRAY_PRESET can be used to specify the RL agent algorithm you want to use.

  6. Define the metrics definitions that you are interested in capturing in your logs. These can also be visualized in CloudWatch and SageMaker Notebooks.

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metric_definitions = RLEstimator.default_metric_definitions(RLToolkit.RAY)

estimator = RLEstimator(
    entry_point="" % roboschool_problem,
        # Attention scientists!  You can override any Ray algorithm parameter here:
        # "": 5000,
        # "": 10,
job_name = estimator.latest_training_job.job_name
print("Training job: %s" % job_name)


RL training can take a long time. So while it’s running there are a variety of ways we can track progress of the running training job. Some intermediate output gets saved to S3 during training, so we’ll set up to capture that.

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print("Job name: {}".format(job_name))

s3_url = "s3://{}/{}".format(s3_bucket, job_name)

intermediate_folder_key = "{}/output/intermediate/".format(job_name)
intermediate_url = "s3://{}/{}".format(s3_bucket, intermediate_folder_key)

print("S3 job path: {}".format(s3_url))
print("Intermediate folder path: {}".format(intermediate_url))

tmp_dir = "/tmp/{}".format(job_name)
os.system("mkdir {}".format(tmp_dir))
print("Create local folder {}".format(tmp_dir))

Fetch videos of training rollouts

Videos of certain rollouts get written to S3 during training. Here we fetch the last 10 videos from S3, and render the last one.

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recent_videos = wait_for_s3_object(
    fetch_only=(lambda obj: obj.key.endswith(".mp4") and obj.size > 0),
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last_video = sorted(recent_videos)[-1]  # Pick which video to watch
os.system("mkdir -p ./src/tmp_render/ && cp {} ./src/tmp_render/last_video.mp4".format(last_video))
HTML('<video src="./src/tmp_render/last_video.mp4" controls autoplay></video>')

Plot metrics for training job

We can see the reward metric of the training as it’s running, using algorithm metrics that are recorded in CloudWatch metrics. We can plot this to see the performance of the model over time.

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%matplotlib inline
from import TrainingJobAnalytics

if not local_mode:
    df = TrainingJobAnalytics(job_name, ["episode_reward_mean"]).dataframe()
    num_metrics = len(df)
    if num_metrics == 0:
        print("No algorithm metrics found in CloudWatch")
        plt = df.plot(x="timestamp", y="value", figsize=(12, 5), legend=True, style="b-")
        plt.set_ylabel("Mean reward per episode")
        plt.set_xlabel("Training time (s)")
    print("Can't plot metrics in local mode.")

Monitor training progress

You can repeatedly run the visualization cells to get the latest videos or see the latest metrics as the training job proceeds.

Evaluation of RL models

We use the last checkpointed model to run evaluation for the RL Agent.

Load checkpointed model

Checkpointed data from the previously trained models will be passed on for evaluation / inference in the checkpoint channel. In local mode, we can simply use the local directory, whereas in the SageMaker mode, it needs to be moved to S3 first.

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if local_mode:
    model_tar_key = "{}/model.tar.gz".format(job_name)
    model_tar_key = "{}/output/model.tar.gz".format(job_name)

local_checkpoint_dir = "{}/model".format(tmp_dir)

wait_for_s3_object(s3_bucket, model_tar_key, tmp_dir, training_job_name=job_name)

if not os.path.isfile("{}/model.tar.gz".format(tmp_dir)):
    raise FileNotFoundError("File model.tar.gz not found")

os.system("mkdir -p {}".format(local_checkpoint_dir))
os.system("tar -xvzf {}/model.tar.gz -C {}".format(tmp_dir, local_checkpoint_dir))

print("Checkpoint directory {}".format(local_checkpoint_dir))
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if local_mode:
    checkpoint_path = "file://{}".format(local_checkpoint_dir)
    print("Local checkpoint file path: {}".format(local_checkpoint_dir))
    checkpoint_path = "s3://{}/{}/checkpoint/".format(s3_bucket, job_name)
    if not os.listdir(local_checkpoint_dir):
        raise FileNotFoundError("Checkpoint files not found under the path")
    os.system("aws s3 cp --recursive {} {}".format(local_checkpoint_dir, checkpoint_path))
    print("S3 checkpoint file path: {}".format(checkpoint_path))
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estimator_eval = RLEstimator(
    base_job_name=job_name_prefix + "-evaluation",
        "evaluate_episodes": 10,
        "algorithm": "PPO",
        "env": "Roboschool%s-v1" % roboschool_problem.capitalize(),
){"model": checkpoint_path})
job_name = estimator_eval.latest_training_job.job_name
print("Evaluation job: %s" % job_name)

Visualize the output

Optionally, you can run the steps defined earlier to visualize the output.

Model deployment

Now let us deploy the RL policy so that we can get the optimal action, given an environment observation.

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from sagemaker.tensorflow.model import TensorFlowModel

model = TensorFlowModel(model_data=estimator.model_data, framework_version="2.5.1", role=role)

predictor = model.deploy(initial_instance_count=1, instance_type=instance_type)
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# Mapping of environments to observation space
observation_space_mapping = {"reacher": 9}

Now let us predict the actions using a dummy observation

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# ray 1.6.0 requires all the following inputs, ray 0.8.5 or below remove 'timestep'
# 'prev_action', 'is_training', 'prev_reward', 'seq_lens' and 'timestep' are placeholders for this example
# they won't affect prediction results

input = {
    "inputs": {
        "observations": np.ones(shape=(1, observation_space_mapping[roboschool_problem])).tolist(),
        "prev_action": [0, 0],
        "is_training": False,
        "prev_reward": -1,
        "seq_lens": -1,
        "timestep": 1,
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result = predictor.predict(input)


Clean up endpoint

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