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TRAIL: Near-Optimal Imitation Learning with Suboptimal Data
Mengjiao Yang · Sergey Levine · Ofir Nachum

The aim in imitation learning is to learn effective policies by utilizing near-optimal expert demonstrations. However, high-quality demonstrations from human experts can be expensive to obtain in large number. On the other hand, it is often much easier to obtain large quantities of suboptimal or task-agnostic trajectories, which are not useful for direct imitation, but can nevertheless provide insight into the dynamical structure of the environment, showing what could be done in the environment even if not what should be done. Is it possible to formalize these conceptual benefits and devise algorithms to use offline datasets to yield provable improvements to the sample-efficiency of imitation learning? In this work, we study this question and present training objectives that use offline datasets to learn a factored transition model whose structure enables the extraction of a latent action space. Our theoretical analysis shows that the learned latent action space can boost the sample-efficiency of downstream imitation learning, effectively reducing the need for large near-optimal expert datasets through the use of auxiliary non-expert data. To learn the latent action space in practice, we propose TRAIL (Transition-Reparametrized Actions for Imitation Learning), an algorithm that learns an energy-based transition model contrastively, and uses the transition model to reparametrize the action space for sample-efficient imitation learning. We evaluate the practicality of our objective through experiments on a set of navigation and locomotion tasks. Our results verify the benefits suggested by our theory and show that TRAIL is able to recover near-optimal policies with fewer expert trajectories.

Author Information

Mengjiao Yang (Google Brain)
Sergey Levine (UC Berkeley)
Ofir Nachum (Google Brain)

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