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Guiding Exploration Towards Impactful Actions
Vaibhav Saxena · Jimmy Ba · Danijar Hafner
Event URL: https://openreview.net/forum?id=oXj1bwCpbr »

To solve decision making tasks in unknown environments, artificial agents need to explore their surroundings. While simple tasks can be solved through naive exploration methods such as action noise, complex tasks require exploration objectives that direct the agent to novel states. However, current exploration objectives typically reward states purely based on how much the agent learns from them, regardless of whether the states are likely to be useful for solving later tasks. In this paper, we propose to guide exploration by empowerment to focus the agent on exploring regions in which it has a strong influence over its environment. We introduce a simple information-theoretic estimator of the agent's empowerment that is added as a reward term to any reinforcement learning method. On a novel BridgeWalk environment, we find that guiding exploration by empowerment helps the agent avoid falling into the unpredictable water, which substantially accelerates exploration and task learning. Experiments on Atari games demonstrate that the approach is general and often leads to improved performance.

Author Information

Vaibhav Saxena (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Jimmy Ba (University of Toronto / Vector Institute)
Danijar Hafner (Google)

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