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Simple Embodied Language Learning as a Byproduct of Meta-Reinforcement Learning
Evan Liu · Sahaana Suri · Tong Mu · Allan Zhou · Chelsea Finn

Wed Jul 26 05:00 PM -- 06:30 PM (PDT) @ Exhibit Hall 1 #200

Whereas machine learning models typically learn language by directly training on language tasks (e.g., next-word prediction), language emerges in human children as a byproduct of solving non-language tasks (e.g., acquiring food). Motivated by this observation, we ask: can embodied reinforcement learning (RL) agents also indirectly learn language from non-language tasks? Learning to associate language with its meaning requires a dynamic environment with varied language. Therefore, we investigate this question in a multi-task environment with language that varies across the different tasks. Specifically, we design an office navigation environment, where the agent’s goal is to find a particular office, and office locations differ in different buildings (i.e., tasks). Each building includes a floor plan with a simple language description of the goal office’s location, which can be visually read as an RGB image when visited. We find RL agents indeed are able to indirectly learn language. Agents trained with current meta-RL algorithms successfully generalize to reading floor plans with held-out layouts and language phrases, and quickly navigate to the correct office, despite receiving no direct language supervision.

Author Information

Evan Liu (Stanford University)
Sahaana Suri (Stanford University)
Tong Mu (Stanford University)
Allan Zhou (Stanford University)
Chelsea Finn (Stanford)

Chelsea Finn is an Assistant Professor in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Finn's research interests lie in the capability of robots and other agents to develop broadly intelligent behavior through learning and interaction. To this end, her work has included deep learning algorithms for concurrently learning visual perception and control in robotic manipulation skills, inverse reinforcement methods for learning reward functions underlying behavior, and meta-learning algorithms that can enable fast, few-shot adaptation in both visual perception and deep reinforcement learning. Finn received her Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and her PhD in Computer Science at UC Berkeley. Her research has been recognized through the ACM doctoral dissertation award, the Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship, the C.V. Ramamoorthy Distinguished Research Award, and the MIT Technology Review 35 under 35 Award, and her work has been covered by various media outlets, including the New York Times, Wired, and Bloomberg. Throughout her career, she has sought to increase the representation of underrepresented minorities within CS and AI by developing an AI outreach camp at Berkeley for underprivileged high school students, a mentoring program for underrepresented undergraduates across four universities, and leading efforts within the WiML and Berkeley WiCSE communities of women researchers.

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