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Spending Thinking Time Wisely: Accelerating MCTS with Virtual Expansions
Weirui Ye · Pieter Abbeel · Yang Gao

Tue Nov 29 02:00 PM -- 04:00 PM (PST) @ Hall J #804
One of the most important AI research questions is to trade off computation versus performance since ``perfect rationality" exists in theory but is impossible to achieve in practice. Recently, Monte-Carlo tree search (MCTS) has attracted considerable attention due to the significant performance improvement in various challenging domains. However, the expensive time cost during search severely restricts its scope for applications. This paper proposes the Virtual MCTS (V-MCTS), a variant of MCTS that spends more search time on harder states and less search time on simpler states adaptively. We give theoretical bounds of the proposed method and evaluate the performance and computations on $9 \times 9$ Go board games and Atari games. Experiments show that our method can achieve comparable performances to the original search algorithm while requiring less than $50\%$ search time on average. We believe that this approach is a viable alternative for tasks under limited time and resources. The code is available at \url{https://github.com/YeWR/V-MCTS.git}.

Author Information

Weirui Ye (Tsinghua University)
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.

Yang Gao (Tsinghua University)

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