Model-free reinforcement learning (RL) is capable of learning control policies for high-dimensional, complex robotic tasks, but tends to be data-inefficient. Model-based RL tends to be more data-efficient but often suffers from learning a high-dimensional model that is good enough for policy improvement. This limits its use to learning simple models for restrictive domains. Optimal control generates solutions without collecting any data, assuming an accurate model of the system and environment is known, which is often true in many control theory applications. However, optimal control cannot be scaled to problems with a high-dimensional state space. In this paper, we propose a novel approach to alleviate data inefficiency of model-free RL in high-dimensional problems by warm-starting the learning process using a lower-dimensional model-based solution. Particularly, we initialize a baseline function for the high-dimensional RL problem via supervision from a lower-dimensional value function, which can be obtained by solving a lower-dimensional problem with a known, approximate model using "classical" techniques such as value iteration or optimal control. Therefore, our approach implicitly exploits the model priors from simplified problem space to facilitate the policy learning in high-dimensional RL tasks. We demonstrate our approach on two representative robotic learning tasks and observe significant improvement in policy performance and learning efficiency. We also evaluate our method empirically with a third task.
Due to the high efficiency and less weather dependency, autonomous greenhouses provide an ideal solution to meet the increasing demand for fresh food. However, managers are faced with some challenges in finding appropriate control strategies for crop growth, since the decision space of the greenhouse control problem is an astronomical number. Therefore, an intelligent closed-loop control framework is highly desired to generate an automatic control policy. As a powerful tool for optimal control, reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms can surpass human beings' decision-making and can also be seamlessly integrated into the closed-loop control framework. However, in complex real-world scenarios such as agricultural automation control, where the interaction with the environment is time-consuming and expensive, the application of RL algorithms encounters two main challenges, i.e., sample efficiency and safety. Although model-based RL methods can greatly mitigate the efficiency problem of greenhouse control, the safety problem has not got too much attention. In this paper, we present a model-based robust RL framework for autonomous greenhouse control to meet the sample efficiency and safety challenges. Specifically, our framework introduces an ensemble of environment models to work as a simulator and assist in policy optimization, thereby addressing the low sample efficiency problem. As for the safety concern, we propose a sample dropout module to focus more on worst-case samples, which can help improve the adaptability of the greenhouse planting policy in extreme cases. Experimental results demonstrate that our approach can learn a more effective greenhouse planting policy with better robustness than existing methods.
Offline reinforcement learning (RL) shows promise of applying RL to real-world problems by effectively utilizing previously collected data. Most existing offline RL algorithms use regularization or constraints to suppress extrapolation error for actions outside the dataset. In this paper, we adopt a different framework, which learns the V-function instead of the Q-function to naturally keep the learning procedure within the support of an offline dataset. To enable effective generalization while maintaining proper conservatism in offline learning, we propose Expectile V-Learning (EVL), which smoothly interpolates between the optimal value learning and behavior cloning. Further, we introduce implicit planning along offline trajectories to enhance learned V-values and accelerate convergence. Together, we present a new offline method called Value-based Episodic Memory (VEM). We provide theoretical analysis for the convergence properties of our proposed VEM method, and empirical results in the D4RL benchmark show that our method achieves superior performance in most tasks, particularly in sparse-reward tasks.
Hierarchical reinforcement learning (HRL) has seen widespread interest as an approach to tractable learning of complex modular behaviors. However, existing work either assume access to expert-constructed hierarchies, or use hierarchy-learning heuristics with no provable guarantees. To address this gap, we analyze HRL in the meta-RL setting, where a learner learns latent hierarchical structure during meta-training for use in a downstream task. We consider a tabular setting where natural hierarchical structure is embedded in the transition dynamics. Analogous to supervised meta-learning theory, we provide "diversity conditions" which, together with a tractable optimism-based algorithm, guarantee sample-efficient recovery of this natural hierarchy. Furthermore, we provide regret bounds on a learner using the recovered hierarchy to solve a meta-test task. Our bounds incorporate common notions in HRL literature such as temporal and state/action abstractions, suggesting that our setting and analysis capture important features of HRL in practice.
Online Network Resource Allocation (ONRA) for service provisioning is a fundamental problem in communication networks. As a sequential decision-making under uncertainty problem, it is promising to approach ONRA via Reinforcement Learning (RL). But, RL solutions suffer from the sample complexity issue; i.e., a large number of interactions with the environment needed to find an efficient policy. This is a barrier to utilize RL for ONRA as on one hand, it is not practical to train the RL agent offline due to lack of information about future requests, and on the other hand, online training in the real network leads to significant performance loss because of the sub-optimal policy during the prolonged learning time. This performance degradation is even higher in non-stationary ONRA where the agent should continually adapt the policy with the changes in service requests. To deal with this issue, we develop a general resource allocation framework, named RADAR, using model-based RL for a class of ONRA problems with the known immediate reward of each action. RADAR improves sample efficiency via exploring the state space in the background and exploiting the policy in the decision-time using synthetic samples by the model of the environment, which is trained by real interactions. Applying RADAR on the multi-domain service federation problem, to maximize profit via selecting proper domains for service requests deployment, shows its continual learning capability and up to 44% performance improvement w.r.t. the standard model-free RL solution.
Meta-reinforcement learning (meta-RL) aims to learn from multiple training tasks the ability to adapt efficiently to unseen test tasks. Despite the success, existing meta-RL algorithms are known to be sensitive to the task distribution shift. When the test task distribution is different from the training task distribution, the performance may degrade significantly. To address this issue, this paper proposes Model-based Adversarial Meta-Reinforcement Learning (AdMRL), where we aim to minimize the worst-case sub-optimality gap -- the difference between the optimal return and the return that the algorithm achieves after adaptation -- across all tasks in a family of tasks, with a model-based approach. We propose a minimax objective and optimize it by alternating between learning the dynamics model on a fixed task and finding the adversarial task for the current model -- the task for which the policy induced by the model is maximally suboptimal. Assuming the family of tasks is parameterized, we derive a formula for the gradient of the suboptimality with respect to the task parameters via the implicit function theorem, and show how the gradient estimator can be efficiently implemented by the conjugate gradient method and a novel use of the REINFORCE estimator. We evaluate our approach on several continuous control benchmarks and demonstrate its efficacy in the worst-case performance over all tasks, the generalization power to out-of-distribution tasks, and in training and test time sample efficiency, over existing state-of-the-art meta-RL algorithms.
Reinforcement learning (RL) is a popular paradigm for addressing sequential decision tasks in which the agent has only limited environmental feedback. Despite many advances over the past three decades, learning in many domains still requires a large amount of interaction with the environment, which can be prohibitively expensive in realistic scenarios. To address this problem, transfer learning has been applied to reinforcement learning such that experience gained in one task can be leveraged when starting to learn the next, harder task. More recently, several lines of research have explored how tasks, or data samples themselves, can be sequenced into a curriculum for the purpose of learning a problem that may otherwise be too difficult to learn from scratch. In this article, we present a framework for curriculum learning (CL) in reinforcement learning, and use it to survey and classify existing CL methods in terms of their assumptions, capabilities, and goals. Finally, we use our framework to find open problems and suggest directions for future RL curriculum learning research.
Deep learning (DL) is a high dimensional data reduction technique for constructing high-dimensional predictors in input-output models. DL is a form of machine learning that uses hierarchical layers of latent features. In this article, we review the state-of-the-art of deep learning from a modeling and algorithmic perspective. We provide a list of successful areas of applications in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Image Processing, Robotics and Automation. Deep learning is predictive in its nature rather then inferential and can be viewed as a black-box methodology for high-dimensional function estimation.
Deep reinforcement learning has recently shown many impressive successes. However, one major obstacle towards applying such methods to real-world problems is their lack of data-efficiency. To this end, we propose the Bottleneck Simulator: a model-based reinforcement learning method which combines a learned, factorized transition model of the environment with rollout simulations to learn an effective policy from few examples. The learned transition model employs an abstract, discrete (bottleneck) state, which increases sample efficiency by reducing the number of model parameters and by exploiting structural properties of the environment. We provide a mathematical analysis of the Bottleneck Simulator in terms of fixed points of the learned policy, which reveals how performance is affected by four distinct sources of error: an error related to the abstract space structure, an error related to the transition model estimation variance, an error related to the transition model estimation bias, and an error related to the transition model class bias. Finally, we evaluate the Bottleneck Simulator on two natural language processing tasks: a text adventure game and a real-world, complex dialogue response selection task. On both tasks, the Bottleneck Simulator yields excellent performance beating competing approaches.
Although reinforcement learning methods can achieve impressive results in simulation, the real world presents two major challenges: generating samples is exceedingly expensive, and unexpected perturbations can cause proficient but narrowly-learned policies to fail at test time. In this work, we propose to learn how to quickly and effectively adapt online to new situations as well as to perturbations. To enable sample-efficient meta-learning, we consider learning online adaptation in the context of model-based reinforcement learning. Our approach trains a global model such that, when combined with recent data, the model can be be rapidly adapted to the local context. Our experiments demonstrate that our approach can enable simulated agents to adapt their behavior online to novel terrains, to a crippled leg, and in highly-dynamic environments.
Modern communication networks have become very complicated and highly dynamic, which makes them hard to model, predict and control. In this paper, we develop a novel experience-driven approach that can learn to well control a communication network from its own experience rather than an accurate mathematical model, just as a human learns a new skill (such as driving, swimming, etc). Specifically, we, for the first time, propose to leverage emerging Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) for enabling model-free control in communication networks; and present a novel and highly effective DRL-based control framework, DRL-TE, for a fundamental networking problem: Traffic Engineering (TE). The proposed framework maximizes a widely-used utility function by jointly learning network environment and its dynamics, and making decisions under the guidance of powerful Deep Neural Networks (DNNs). We propose two new techniques, TE-aware exploration and actor-critic-based prioritized experience replay, to optimize the general DRL framework particularly for TE. To validate and evaluate the proposed framework, we implemented it in ns-3, and tested it comprehensively with both representative and randomly generated network topologies. Extensive packet-level simulation results show that 1) compared to several widely-used baseline methods, DRL-TE significantly reduces end-to-end delay and consistently improves the network utility, while offering better or comparable throughput; 2) DRL-TE is robust to network changes; and 3) DRL-TE consistently outperforms a state-ofthe-art DRL method (for continuous control), Deep Deterministic Policy Gradient (DDPG), which, however, does not offer satisfying performance.