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Representation Learning with Multi-Step Inverse Kinematics: An Efficient and Optimal Approach to Rich-Observation RL

Zakaria Mhammedi · Dylan Foster · Alexander Rakhlin

Ballroom B


We study the design of sample-efficient algorithms for reinforcement learning in the presence of rich, high-dimensional observations, formalized via the Block MDP problem. Existing algorithms suffer from either 1) computational intractability, 2) strong statistical assumptions that are not necessarily satisfied in practice, or 3) suboptimal sample complexity. We address these issues by providing the first computationally efficient algorithm that attains rate-optimal sample complexity with respect to the desired accuracy level, with minimal statistical assumptions. Our algorithm, MusIK, combines exploration with representation learning based on multi-step inverse kinematics, a learning objective in which the aim is to predict the current action from the current observation and observations in the (potentially distant) future. MusIK is simple and flexible, and can efficiently take advantage of general-purpose function approximation. Our analysis of MusIK leverages several new techniques tailored to non-optimistic algorithms for reward-free exploration, which we anticipate will find broader use.

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