Bayesian RL for Goal-Only Rewards

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Philippe Morere, Fabio Ramos ;
Proceedings of The 2nd Conference on Robot Learning, PMLR 87:386-398, 2018.

Abstract

We address the challenging problem of reinforcement learning under goal-only rewards [1], where rewards are only non-zero when the goal is achieved. This reward definition alleviates the need for cumbersome reward engineering, making the reward formulation trivial. Classic exploration heuristics such as Boltzmann or epsilon-greedy exploration are highly inefficient in domains with goal-only rewards. We solve this problem by leveraging value function posterior variance information to direct exploration where uncertainty is higher. The proposed algorithm (EMU-Q) achieves data-efficient exploration, and balances exploration and exploitation explicitly at a policy level granting users more control over the learning process. We introduce general features approximating kernels, allowing to greatly reduce the algorithm complexity from O(N^3) in the number of transitions to O(M^2) in the number of features. We demonstrate EMU-Q is competitive with other exploration techniques on a variety of continuous control tasks and on a robotic manipulator.

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