Deep Reinforcement Learning 1

Moderator: Karl Cobbe


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Tue 20 July 5:00 - 5:20 PDT
Phasic Policy Gradient

Karl Cobbe · Jacob Hilton · Oleg Klimov · John Schulman

We introduce Phasic Policy Gradient (PPG), a reinforcement learning framework which modifies traditional on-policy actor-critic methods by separating policy and value function training into distinct phases. In prior methods, one must choose between using a shared network or separate networks to represent the policy and value function. Using separate networks avoids interference between objectives, while using a shared network allows useful features to be shared. PPG is able to achieve the best of both worlds by splitting optimization into two phases, one that advances training and one that distills features. PPG also enables the value function to be more aggressively optimized with a higher level of sample reuse. Compared to PPO, we find that PPG significantly improves sample efficiency on the challenging Procgen Benchmark.

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Tue 20 July 5:20 - 5:25 PDT
Reinforcement Learning with Prototypical Representations

Denis Yarats · Rob Fergus · Alessandro Lazaric · Lerrel Pinto

Learning effective representations in image-based environments is crucial for sample efficient Reinforcement Learning (RL). Unfortunately, in RL, representation learning is confounded with the exploratory experience of the agent -- learning a useful representation requires diverse data, while effective exploration is only possible with coherent representations. Furthermore, we would like to learn representations that not only generalize across tasks but also accelerate downstream exploration for efficient task-specific training. To address these challenges we propose Proto-RL, a self-supervised framework that ties representation learning with exploration through prototypical representations. These prototypes simultaneously serve as a summarization of the exploratory experience of an agent as well as a basis for representing observations. We pre-train these task-agnostic representations and prototypes on environments without downstream task information. This enables state-of-the-art downstream policy learning on a set of difficult continuous control tasks.

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Tue 20 July 5:25 - 5:30 PDT
Diversity Actor-Critic: Sample-Aware Entropy Regularization for Sample-Efficient Exploration

Seungyul Han · Youngchul Sung

In this paper, sample-aware policy entropy regularization is proposed to enhance the conventional policy entropy regularization for better exploration. Exploiting the sample distribution obtainable from the replay buffer, the proposed sample-aware entropy regularization maximizes the entropy of the weighted sum of the policy action distribution and the sample action distribution from the replay buffer for sample-efficient exploration. A practical algorithm named diversity actor-critic (DAC) is developed by applying policy iteration to the objective function with the proposed sample-aware entropy regularization. Numerical results show that DAC significantly outperforms existing recent algorithms for reinforcement learning.

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Tue 20 July 5:30 - 5:35 PDT
Muesli: Combining Improvements in Policy Optimization

Matteo Hessel · Ivo Danihelka · Fabio Viola · Arthur Guez · Simon Schmitt · Laurent Sifre · Theophane Weber · David Silver · Hado van Hasselt

We propose a novel policy update that combines regularized policy optimization with model learning as an auxiliary loss. The update (henceforth Muesli) matches MuZero's state-of-the-art performance on Atari. Notably, Muesli does so without using deep search: it acts directly with a policy network and has computation speed comparable to model-free baselines. The Atari results are complemented by extensive ablations, and by additional results on continuous control and 9x9 Go.

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Tue 20 July 5:35 - 5:40 PDT
Unsupervised Learning of Visual 3D Keypoints for Control

Boyuan Chen · Pieter Abbeel · Deepak Pathak

Learning sensorimotor control policies from high-dimensional images crucially relies on the quality of the underlying visual representations. Prior works show that structured latent space such as visual keypoints often outperforms unstructured representations for robotic control. However, most of these representations, whether structured or unstructured are learned in a 2D space even though the control tasks are usually performed in a 3D environment. In this work, we propose a framework to learn such a 3D geometric structure directly from images in an end-to-end unsupervised manner. The input images are embedded into latent 3D keypoints via a differentiable encoder which is trained to optimize both a multi-view consistency loss and downstream task objective. These discovered 3D keypoints tend to meaningfully capture robot joints as well as object movements in a consistent manner across both time and 3D space. The proposed approach outperforms prior state-of-art methods across a variety of reinforcement learning benchmarks. Code and videos at

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Tue 20 July 5:40 - 5:45 PDT
Learning Task Informed Abstractions

Xiang Fu · Ge Yang · Pulkit Agrawal · Tommi Jaakkola

Current model-based reinforcement learning methods struggle when operating from complex visual scenes due to their inability to prioritize task-relevant features. To mitigate this problem, we propose learning Task Informed Abstractions (TIA) that explicitly separates reward-correlated visual features from distractors. For learning TIA, we introduce the formalism of Task Informed MDP (TiMDP) that is realized by training two models that learn visual features via cooperative reconstruction, but one model is adversarially dissociated from the reward signal. Empirical evaluation shows that TIA leads to significant performance gains over state-of-the-art methods on many visual control tasks where natural and unconstrained visual distractions pose a formidable challenge. Project page:

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Tue 20 July 5:45 - 5:50 PDT
State Entropy Maximization with Random Encoders for Efficient Exploration

Younggyo Seo · Lili Chen · Jinwoo Shin · Honglak Lee · Pieter Abbeel · Kimin Lee

Recent exploration methods have proven to be a recipe for improving sample-efficiency in deep reinforcement learning (RL). However, efficient exploration in high-dimensional observation spaces still remains a challenge. This paper presents Random Encoders for Efficient Exploration (RE3), an exploration method that utilizes state entropy as an intrinsic reward. In order to estimate state entropy in environments with high-dimensional observations, we utilize a k-nearest neighbor entropy estimator in the low-dimensional representation space of a convolutional encoder. In particular, we find that the state entropy can be estimated in a stable and compute-efficient manner by utilizing a randomly initialized encoder, which is fixed throughout training. Our experiments show that RE3 significantly improves the sample-efficiency of both model-free and model-based RL methods on locomotion and navigation tasks from DeepMind Control Suite and MiniGrid benchmarks. We also show that RE3 allows learning diverse behaviors without extrinsic rewards, effectively improving sample-efficiency in downstream tasks.

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Tue 20 July 5:50 - 5:55 PDT

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