Reinforcement Learning 10

Moderator: Marcello Restelli


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Wed 21 July 5:00 - 5:20 PDT
Cross-domain Imitation from Observations

Dripta S. Raychaudhuri · Sujoy Paul · Jeroen Vanbaar · Amit Roy-Chowdhury

Imitation learning seeks to circumvent the difficulty in designing proper reward functions for training agents by utilizing expert behavior. With environments modeled as Markov Decision Processes (MDP), most of the existing imitation algorithms are contingent on the availability of expert demonstrations in the same MDP as the one in which a new imitation policy is to be learned. In this paper, we study the problem of how to imitate tasks when discrepancies exist between the expert and agent MDP. These discrepancies across domains could include differing dynamics, viewpoint, or morphology; we present a novel framework to learn correspondences across such domains. Importantly, in contrast to prior works, we use unpaired and unaligned trajectories containing only states in the expert domain, to learn this correspondence. We utilize a cycle-consistency constraint on both the state space and a domain agnostic latent space to do this. In addition, we enforce consistency on the temporal position of states via a normalized position estimator function, to align the trajectories across the two domains. Once this correspondence is found, we can directly transfer the demonstrations on one domain to the other and use it for imitation. Experiments across a wide variety of challenging domains demonstrate the efficacy of our approach.

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Wed 21 July 5:20 - 5:25 PDT
SUNRISE: A Simple Unified Framework for Ensemble Learning in Deep Reinforcement Learning

Kimin Lee · Michael Laskin · Aravind Srinivas · Pieter Abbeel

Off-policy deep reinforcement learning (RL) has been successful in a range of challenging domains. However, standard off-policy RL algorithms can suffer from several issues, such as instability in Q-learning and balancing exploration and exploitation. To mitigate these issues, we present SUNRISE, a simple unified ensemble method, which is compatible with various off-policy RL algorithms. SUNRISE integrates two key ingredients: (a) ensemble-based weighted Bellman backups, which re-weight target Q-values based on uncertainty estimates from a Q-ensemble, and (b) an inference method that selects actions using the highest upper-confidence bounds for efficient exploration. By enforcing the diversity between agents using Bootstrap with random initialization, we show that these different ideas are largely orthogonal and can be fruitfully integrated, together further improving the performance of existing off-policy RL algorithms, such as Soft Actor-Critic and Rainbow DQN, for both continuous and discrete control tasks on both low-dimensional and high-dimensional environments.

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Wed 21 July 5:25 - 5:30 PDT
Decoupling Exploration and Exploitation for Meta-Reinforcement Learning without Sacrifices

Evan Liu · Aditi Raghunathan · Percy Liang · Chelsea Finn

The goal of meta-reinforcement learning (meta-RL) is to build agents that can quickly learn new tasks by leveraging prior experience on related tasks. Learning a new task often requires both exploring to gather task-relevant information and exploiting this information to solve the task. In principle, optimal exploration and exploitation can be learned end-to-end by simply maximizing task performance. However, such meta-RL approaches struggle with local optima due to a chicken-and-egg problem: learning to explore requires good exploitation to gauge the exploration’s utility, but learning to exploit requires information gathered via exploration. Optimizing separate objectives for exploration and exploitation can avoid this problem, but prior meta-RL exploration objectives yield suboptimal policies that gather information irrelevant to the task. We alleviate both concerns by constructing an exploitation objective that automatically identifies task-relevant information and an exploration objective to recover only this information. This avoids local optima in end-to-end training, without sacrificing optimal exploration. Empirically, DREAM substantially outperforms existing approaches on complex meta-RL problems, such as sparse-reward 3D visual navigation. Videos of DREAM:

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Wed 21 July 5:30 - 5:35 PDT
Active Feature Acquisition with Generative Surrogate Models

Yang Li · Junier Oliva

Many real-world situations allow for the acquisition of additional relevant information when making an assessment with limited or uncertain data. However, traditional ML approaches either require all features to be acquired beforehand or regard part of them as missing data that cannot be acquired. In this work, we consider models that perform active feature acquisition (AFA) and query the environment for unobserved features to improve the prediction assessments at evaluation time. Our work reformulates the Markov decision process (MDP) that underlies the AFA problem as a generative modeling task and optimizes a policy via a novel model-based approach. We propose learning a generative surrogate model (GSM) that captures the dependencies among input features to assess potential information gain from acquisitions. The GSM is leveraged to provide intermediate rewards and auxiliary information to aid the agent navigate a complicated high-dimensional action space and sparse rewards. Furthermore, we extend AFA in a task we coin active instance recognition (AIR) for the unsupervised case where the target variables are the unobserved features themselves and the goal is to collect information for a particular instance in a cost-efficient way. Empirical results demonstrate that our approach achieves considerably better performance than previous state of the art methods on both supervised and unsupervised tasks.

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Wed 21 July 5:35 - 5:40 PDT
Characterizing the Gap Between Actor-Critic and Policy Gradient

Junfeng Wen · Saurabh Kumar · Ramki Gummadi · Dale Schuurmans

Actor-critic (AC) methods are ubiquitous in reinforcement learning. Although it is understood that AC methods are closely related to policy gradient (PG), their precise connection has not been fully characterized previously. In this paper, we explain the gap between AC and PG methods by identifying the exact adjustment to the AC objective/gradient that recovers the true policy gradient of the cumulative reward objective (PG). Furthermore, by viewing the AC method as a two-player Stackelberg game between the actor and critic, we show that the Stackelberg policy gradient can be recovered as a special case of our more general analysis. Based on these results, we develop practical algorithms, Residual Actor-Critic and Stackelberg Actor-Critic, for estimating the correction between AC and PG and use these to modify the standard AC algorithm. Experiments on popular tabular and continuous environments show the proposed corrections can improve both the sample efficiency and final performance of existing AC methods.

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Wed 21 July 5:40 - 5:45 PDT
Spectral Normalisation for Deep Reinforcement Learning: An Optimisation Perspective

Florin Gogianu · Tudor Berariu · Mihaela Rosca · Claudia Clopath · Lucian Busoniu · Razvan Pascanu

Most of the recent deep reinforcement learning advances take an RL-centric perspective and focus on refinements of the training objective. We diverge from this view and show we can recover the performance of these developments not by changing the objective, but by regularising the value-function estimator. Constraining the Lipschitz constant of a single layer using spectral normalisation is sufficient to elevate the performance of a Categorical-DQN agent to that of a more elaborated agent on the challenging Atari domain. We conduct ablation studies to disentangle the various effects normalisation has on the learning dynamics and show that is sufficient to modulate the parameter updates to recover most of the performance of spectral normalisation. These findings hint towards the need to also focus on the neural component and its learning dynamics to tackle the peculiarities of Deep Reinforcement Learning.

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Wed 21 July 5:45 - 5:50 PDT
Accelerating Safe Reinforcement Learning with Constraint-mismatched Baseline Policies

Jimmy (Tsung-Yen) Yang · Justinian Rosca · Karthik Narasimhan · Peter Ramadge

We consider the problem of reinforcement learning when provided with (1) a baseline control policy and (2) a set of constraints that the learner must satisfy. The baseline policy can arise from demonstration data or a teacher agent and may provide useful cues for learning, but it might also be sub-optimal for the task at hand, and is not guaranteed to satisfy the specified constraints, which might encode safety, fairness or other application-specific requirements. In order to safely learn from baseline policies, we propose an iterative policy optimization algorithm that alternates between maximizing expected return on the task, minimizing distance to the baseline policy, and projecting the policy onto the constraint-satisfying set. We analyze our algorithm theoretically and provide a finite-time convergence guarantee. In our experiments on five different control tasks, our algorithm consistently outperforms several state-of-the-art baselines, achieving 10 times fewer constraint violations and 40% higher reward on average.

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Wed 21 July 5:50 - 5:55 PDT

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