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Poster
Successor Uncertainties: Exploration and Uncertainty in Temporal Difference Learning
David Janz · Jiri Hron · Przemysław Mazur · Katja Hofmann · José Miguel Hernández-Lobato · Sebastian Tschiatschek

Tue Dec 10 10:45 AM -- 12:45 PM (PST) @ East Exhibition Hall B + C #198

Posterior sampling for reinforcement learning (PSRL) is an effective method for balancing exploration and exploitation in reinforcement learning. Randomised value functions (RVF) can be viewed as a promising approach to scaling PSRL. However, we show that most contemporary algorithms combining RVF with neural network function approximation do not possess the properties which make PSRL effective, and provably fail in sparse reward problems. Moreover, we find that propagation of uncertainty, a property of PSRL previously thought important for exploration, does not preclude this failure. We use these insights to design Successor Uncertainties (SU), a cheap and easy to implement RVF algorithm that retains key properties of PSRL. SU is highly effective on hard tabular exploration benchmarks. Furthermore, on the Atari 2600 domain, it surpasses human performance on 38 of 49 games tested (achieving a median human normalised score of 2.09), and outperforms its closest RVF competitor, Bootstrapped DQN, on 36 of those.

Author Information

David Janz (University of Cambridge)
Jiri Hron (University of Cambridge)
Przemysław Mazur (Wayve)
Katja Hofmann (Microsoft Research)

Dr. Katja Hofmann is a Principal Researcher at the [Game Intelligence](http://aka.ms/gameintelligence/) group at [Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK](https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/lab/microsoft-research-cambridge/). There, she leads a research team that focuses on reinforcement learning with applications in modern video games. She and her team strongly believe that modern video games will drive a transformation of how we interact with AI technology. One of the projects developed by her team is [Project Malmo](https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/project-malmo/), which uses the popular game Minecraft as an experimentation platform for developing intelligent technology. Katja's long-term goal is to develop AI systems that learn to collaborate with people, to empower their users and help solve complex real-world problems. Before joining Microsoft Research, Katja completed her PhD in Computer Science as part of the [ILPS](https://ilps.science.uva.nl/) group at the [University of Amsterdam](https://www.uva.nl/en). She worked with Maarten de Rijke and Shimon Whiteson on interactive machine learning algorithms for search engines.

Jose Miguel Hernández-Lobato (University of Cambridge)
Sebastian Tschiatschek (Microsoft Research)

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