Learning goal-directed behavior in environments with sparse feedback is a major challenge for reinforcement learning algorithms. One of the key difficulties is insufficient exploration, resulting in an agent being unable to learn robust policies. Intrinsically motivated agents can explore new behavior for their own sake rather than to directly solve external goals. Such intrinsic behaviors could eventually help the agent solve tasks posed by the environment. We present hierarchical-DQN (h-DQN), a framework to integrate hierarchical action-value functions, operating at different temporal scales, with goal-driven intrinsically motivated deep reinforcement learning. A top-level q-value function learns a policy over intrinsic goals, while a lower-level function learns a policy over atomic actions to satisfy the given goals. h-DQN allows for flexible goal specifications, such as functions over entities and relations. This provides an efficient space for exploration in complicated environments. We demonstrate the strength of our approach on two problems with very sparse and delayed feedback: (1) a complex discrete stochastic decision process with stochastic transitions, and (2) the classic ATARI game -- `Montezuma's Revenge'.
We consider an agent's uncertainty about its environment and the problem of generalizing this uncertainty across states. Specifically, we focus on the problem of exploration in non-tabular reinforcement learning. Drawing inspiration from the intrinsic motivation literature, we use density models to measure uncertainty, and propose a novel algorithm for deriving a pseudo-count from an arbitrary density model. This technique enables us to generalize count-based exploration algorithms to the non-tabular case. We apply our ideas to Atari 2600 games, providing sensible pseudo-counts from raw pixels. We transform these pseudo-counts into exploration bonuses and obtain significantly improved exploration in a number of hard games, including the infamously difficult Montezuma's Revenge.
Recently, researchers have made significant progress combining the advances in deep learning for learning feature representations with reinforcement learning. Some notable examples include training agents to play Atari games based on raw pixel data and to acquire advanced manipulation skills using raw sensory inputs. However, it has been difficult to quantify progress in the domain of continuous control due to the lack of a commonly adopted benchmark. In this work, we present a benchmark suite of continuous control tasks, including classic tasks like cart-pole swing-up, tasks with very high state and action dimensionality such as 3D humanoid locomotion, tasks with partial observations, and tasks with hierarchical structure. We report novel findings based on the systematic evaluation of a range of implemented reinforcement learning algorithms. Both the benchmark and reference implementations are released at https://github.com/rllab/rllab in order to facilitate experimental reproducibility and to encourage adoption by other researchers.
Efficient exploration remains a major challenge for reinforcement learning (RL). Common dithering strategies for exploration, such as epsilon-greedy, do not carry out temporally-extended (or deep) exploration; this can lead to exponentially larger data requirements. However, most algorithms for statistically efficient RL are not computationally tractable in complex environments. Randomized value functions offer a promising approach to efficient exploration with generalization, but existing algorithms are not compatible with nonlinearly parameterized value functions. As a first step towards addressing such contexts we develop bootstrapped DQN. We demonstrate that bootstrapped DQN can combine deep exploration with deep neural networks for exponentially faster learning than any dithering strategy. In the Arcade Learning Environment bootstrapped DQN substantially improves learning speed and cumulative performance across most games.
Scalable and effective exploration remains a key challenge in reinforcement learning (RL). While there are methods with optimality guarantees in the setting of discrete state and action spaces, these methods cannot be applied in high-dimensional deep RL scenarios. As such, most contemporary RL relies on simple heuristics such as epsilon-greedy exploration or adding Gaussian noise to the controls. This paper introduces Variational Information Maximizing Exploration (VIME), an exploration strategy based on maximization of information gain about the agent's belief of environment dynamics. We propose a practical implementation, using variational inference in Bayesian neural networks which efficiently handles continuous state and action spaces. VIME modifies the MDP reward function, and can be applied with several different underlying RL algorithms. We demonstrate that VIME achieves significantly better performance compared to heuristic exploration methods across a variety of continuous control tasks and algorithms, including tasks with very sparse rewards.