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Chain of Thought Imitation with Procedure Cloning
Mengjiao (Sherry) Yang · Dale Schuurmans · Pieter Abbeel · Ofir Nachum

Thu Dec 01 02:00 PM -- 04:00 PM (PST) @ Hall J #929

Imitation learning aims to extract high-performance policies from logged demonstrations of expert behavior. It is common to frame imitation learning as a supervised learning problem in which one fits a function approximator to the input-output mapping exhibited by the logged demonstrations (input observations to output actions). While the framing of imitation learning as a supervised input-output learning problem allows for applicability in a wide variety of settings, it is also an overly simplistic view of the problem in situations where the expert demonstrations provide much richer insight into expert behavior. For example, applications such as path navigation, robot manipulation, and strategy games acquire expert demonstrations via planning, search, or some other multi-step algorithm, revealing not just the output action to be imitated but also the procedure for how to determine this action. While these intermediate computations may use tools not available to the agent during inference (e.g., environment simulators), they are nevertheless informative as a way to explain an expert’s mapping of state to actions. To properly leverage expert procedure information without relying on the privileged tools the expert may have used to perform the procedure, we propose procedure cloning, which applies supervised sequence prediction to imitate the complete series of expert computations. This way, procedure cloning learns not only what to do (i.e., the output action), but how and why to do it (i.e., the procedure). Through empirical analysis on navigation, simulated robotic manipulation, and game-playing environments, we show that imitating the intermediate computations of an expert’s behavior enables procedure cloning to learn policies exhibiting significant generalization to unseen environment configurations, including those configurations for which running the expert’s procedure directly is infeasible.

Author Information

Mengjiao (Sherry) Yang (Google Brain)
Dale Schuurmans (Google Brain & University of Alberta)
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.

Ofir Nachum (Google Brain)

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