Transfer in Deep Reinforcement Learning Using Successor Features and Generalised Policy Improvement


Andre Barreto, Diana Borsa, John Quan, Tom Schaul, David Silver, Matteo Hessel, Daniel Mankowitz, Augustin Zidek, Remi Munos ;
Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 80:510-519, 2018.


The ability to transfer skills across tasks has the potential to scale up reinforcement learning (RL) agents to environments currently out of reach. Recently, a framework based on two ideas, successor features (SFs) and generalised policy improvement (GPI), has been introduced as a principled way of transferring skills. In this paper we extend the SF&GPI framework in two ways. One of the basic assumptions underlying the original formulation of SF&GPI is that rewards for all tasks of interest can be computed as linear combinations of a fixed set of features. We relax this constraint and show that the theoretical guarantees supporting the framework can be extended to any set of tasks that only differ in the reward function. Our second contribution is to show that one can use the reward functions themselves as features for future tasks, without any loss of expressiveness, thus removing the need to specify a set of features beforehand. This makes it possible to combine SF&GPI with deep learning in a more stable way. We empirically verify this claim on a complex 3D environment where observations are images from a first-person perspective. We show that the transfer promoted by SF&GPI leads to very good policies on unseen tasks almost instantaneously. We also describe how to learn policies specialised to the new tasks in a way that allows them to be added to the agent’s set of skills, and thus be reused in the future.

Related Material