ELDEN: Exploration via Local Dependencies

Zizhao Wang · Jiaheng Hu · Peter Stone · Roberto Martín-Martín

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1423
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Thu 14 Dec 8:45 a.m. PST — 10:45 a.m. PST


Tasks with large state space and sparse rewards present a longstanding challenge to reinforcement learning. In these tasks, an agent needs to explore the state space efficiently until it finds a reward. To deal with this problem, the community has proposed to augment the reward function with intrinsic reward, a bonus signal that encourages the agent to visit interesting states. In this work, we propose a new way of defining interesting states for environments with factored state spaces and complex chained dependencies, where an agent's actions may change the value of one entity that, in order, may affect the value of another entity. Our insight is that, in these environments, interesting states for exploration are states where the agent is uncertain whether (as opposed to how) entities such as the agent or objects have some influence on each other. We present ELDEN, Exploration via Local DepENdencies, a novel intrinsic reward that encourages the discovery of new interactions between entities. ELDEN utilizes a novel scheme --- the partial derivative of the learned dynamics to model the local dependencies between entities accurately and computationally efficiently. The uncertainty of the predicted dependencies is then used as an intrinsic reward to encourage exploration toward new interactions. We evaluate the performance of ELDEN on four different domains with complex dependencies, ranging from 2D grid worlds to 3D robotic tasks. In all domains, ELDEN correctly identifies local dependencies and learns successful policies, significantly outperforming previous state-of-the-art exploration methods.

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