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Meta-Reinforcement Learning of Structured Exploration Strategies
Abhishek Gupta · Russell Mendonca · YuXuan Liu · Pieter Abbeel · Sergey Levine

Wed Dec 05 12:45 PM -- 12:50 PM (PST) @ Room 220 CD

Exploration is a fundamental challenge in reinforcement learning (RL). Many current exploration methods for deep RL use task-agnostic objectives, such as information gain or bonuses based on state visitation. However, many practical applications of RL involve learning more than a single task, and prior tasks can be used to inform how exploration should be performed in new tasks. In this work, we study how prior tasks can inform an agent about how to explore effectively in new situations. We introduce a novel gradient-based fast adaptation algorithm – model agnostic exploration with structured noise (MAESN) – to learn exploration strategies from prior experience. The prior experience is used both to initialize a policy and to acquire a latent exploration space that can inject structured stochasticity into a policy, producing exploration strategies that are informed by prior knowledge and are more effective than random action-space noise. We show that MAESN is more effective at learning exploration strategies when compared to prior meta-RL methods, RL without learned exploration strategies, and task-agnostic exploration methods. We evaluate our method on a variety of simulated tasks: locomotion with a wheeled robot, locomotion with a quadrupedal walker, and object manipulation.

Author Information

Abhishek Gupta (University of California, Berkeley)
Russell Mendonca (UC Berkeley)
YuXuan Liu (UC Berkeley)
Pieter Abbeel (UC Berkeley | Gradescope | Covariant)

Pieter Abbeel is Professor and Director of the Robot Learning Lab at UC Berkeley [2008- ], Co-Director of the Berkeley AI Research (BAIR) Lab, Co-Founder of covariant.ai [2017- ], Co-Founder of Gradescope [2014- ], Advisor to OpenAI, Founding Faculty Partner AI@TheHouse venture fund, Advisor to many AI/Robotics start-ups. He works in machine learning and robotics. In particular his research focuses on making robots learn from people (apprenticeship learning), how to make robots learn through their own trial and error (reinforcement learning), and how to speed up skill acquisition through learning-to-learn (meta-learning). His robots have learned advanced helicopter aerobatics, knot-tying, basic assembly, organizing laundry, locomotion, and vision-based robotic manipulation. He has won numerous awards, including best paper awards at ICML, NIPS and ICRA, early career awards from NSF, Darpa, ONR, AFOSR, Sloan, TR35, IEEE, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Pieter's work is frequently featured in the popular press, including New York Times, BBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Wired, Forbes, Tech Review, NPR.

Sergey Levine (UC Berkeley)

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