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Behavior From the Void: Unsupervised Active Pre-Training
Hao Liu · Pieter Abbeel

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We introduce a new unsupervised pre-training method for reinforcement learning called APT, which stands for Active Pre-Training. APT learns behaviors and representations by actively searching for novel states in reward-free environments. The key novel idea is to explore the environment by maximizing a non-parametric entropy computed in an abstract representation space, which avoids challenging density modeling and consequently allows our approach to scale much better in environments that have high-dimensional observations (e.g., image observations). We empirically evaluate APT by exposing task-specific reward after a long unsupervised pre-training phase. In Atari games, APT achieves human-level performance on 12 games and obtains highly competitive performance compared to canonical fully supervised RL algorithms. On DMControl suite, APT beats all baselines in terms of asymptotic performance and data efficiency and dramatically improves performance on tasks that are extremely difficult to train from scratch.

Author Information

Hao Liu (UC Berkeley)
Pieter Abbeel (UC Berkeley & 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.

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