10,16,2021

News Blog Paper China
Where do goals come from? A Generic Approach to Autonomous Goal-System Development2014-10-21   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Goals express agents' intentions and allow them to organize their behavior based on low-dimensional abstractions of high-dimensional world states. How can agents develop such goals autonomously? This paper proposes a detailed conceptual and computational account to this longstanding problem. We argue to consider goals as high-level abstractions of lower-level intention mechanisms such as rewards and values, and point out that goals need to be considered alongside with a detection of the own actions' effects. We propose Latent Goal Analysis as a computational learning formulation thereof, and show constructively that any reward or value function can by explained by goals and such self-detection as latent mechanisms. We first show that learned goals provide a highly effective dimensionality reduction in a practical reinforcement learning problem. Then, we investigate a developmental scenario in which entirely task-unspecific rewards induced by visual saliency lead to self and goal representations that constitute goal-directed reaching.
 
Automatic Curriculum Learning through Value Disagreement2020-06-16   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Continually solving new, unsolved tasks is the key to learning diverse behaviors. Through reinforcement learning (RL), we have made massive strides towards solving tasks that have a single goal. However, in the multi-task domain, where an agent needs to reach multiple goals, the choice of training goals can largely affect sample efficiency. When biological agents learn, there is often an organized and meaningful order to which learning happens. Inspired by this, we propose setting up an automatic curriculum for goals that the agent needs to solve. Our key insight is that if we can sample goals at the frontier of the set of goals that an agent is able to reach, it will provide a significantly stronger learning signal compared to randomly sampled goals. To operationalize this idea, we introduce a goal proposal module that prioritizes goals that maximize the epistemic uncertainty of the Q-function of the policy. This simple technique samples goals that are neither too hard nor too easy for the agent to solve, hence enabling continual improvement. We evaluate our method across 13 multi-goal robotic tasks and 5 navigation tasks, and demonstrate performance gains over current state-of-the-art methods.
 
Maximum Entropy Gain Exploration for Long Horizon Multi-goal Reinforcement Learning2020-07-06   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
What goals should a multi-goal reinforcement learning agent pursue during training in long-horizon tasks? When the desired (test time) goal distribution is too distant to offer a useful learning signal, we argue that the agent should not pursue unobtainable goals. Instead, it should set its own intrinsic goals that maximize the entropy of the historical achieved goal distribution. We propose to optimize this objective by having the agent pursue past achieved goals in sparsely explored areas of the goal space, which focuses exploration on the frontier of the achievable goal set. We show that our strategy achieves an order of magnitude better sample efficiency than the prior state of the art on long-horizon multi-goal tasks including maze navigation and block stacking.
 
Bias-Reduced Hindsight Experience Replay with Virtual Goal Prioritization2020-03-20   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Hindsight Experience Replay (HER) is a multi-goal reinforcement learning algorithm for sparse reward functions. The algorithm treats every failure as a success for an alternative (virtual) goal that has been achieved in the episode. Virtual goals are randomly selected, irrespective of which are most instructive for the agent. In this paper, we present two improvements over the existing HER algorithm. First, we prioritize virtual goals from which the agent will learn more valuable information. We call this property the instructiveness of the virtual goal and define it by a heuristic measure, which expresses how well the agent will be able to generalize from that virtual goal to actual goals. Secondly, we reduce existing bias in HER by the removal of misleading samples. To test our algorithms, we built two challenging environments with sparse reward functions. Our empirical results in both environments show vast improvement in the final success rate and sample efficiency when compared to the original HER algorithm. A video showing experimental results is available at https://youtu.be/3cZwfK8Nfps .
 
MapGo: Model-Assisted Policy Optimization for Goal-Oriented Tasks2021-05-13   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
In Goal-oriented Reinforcement learning, relabeling the raw goals in past experience to provide agents with hindsight ability is a major solution to the reward sparsity problem. In this paper, to enhance the diversity of relabeled goals, we develop FGI (Foresight Goal Inference), a new relabeling strategy that relabels the goals by looking into the future with a learned dynamics model. Besides, to improve sample efficiency, we propose to use the dynamics model to generate simulated trajectories for policy training. By integrating these two improvements, we introduce the MapGo framework (Model-Assisted Policy Optimization for Goal-oriented tasks). In our experiments, we first show the effectiveness of the FGI strategy compared with the hindsight one, and then show that the MapGo framework achieves higher sample efficiency when compared to model-free baselines on a set of complicated tasks.
 
Intrinsically Motivated Goal Exploration Processes with Automatic Curriculum Learning2020-07-24   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Intrinsically motivated spontaneous exploration is a key enabler of autonomous lifelong learning in human children. It enables the discovery and acquisition of large repertoires of skills through self-generation, self-selection, self-ordering and self-experimentation of learning goals. We present an algorithmic approach called Intrinsically Motivated Goal Exploration Processes (IMGEP) to enable similar properties of autonomous or self-supervised learning in machines. The IMGEP algorithmic architecture relies on several principles: 1) self-generation of goals, generalized as fitness functions; 2) selection of goals based on intrinsic rewards; 3) exploration with incremental goal-parameterized policy search and exploitation of the gathered data with a batch learning algorithm; 4) systematic reuse of information acquired when targeting a goal for improving towards other goals. We present a particularly efficient form of IMGEP, called Modular Population-Based IMGEP, that uses a population-based policy and an object-centered modularity in goals and mutations. We provide several implementations of this architecture and demonstrate their ability to automatically generate a learning curriculum within several experimental setups including a real humanoid robot that can explore multiple spaces of goals with several hundred continuous dimensions. While no particular target goal is provided to the system, this curriculum allows the discovery of skills that act as stepping stone for learning more complex skills, e.g. nested tool use. We show that learning diverse spaces of goals with intrinsic motivations is more efficient for learning complex skills than only trying to directly learn these complex skills.
 
Self-supervised Learning of Distance Functions for Goal-Conditioned Reinforcement Learning2020-06-02   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Goal-conditioned policies are used in order to break down complex reinforcement learning (RL) problems by using subgoals, which can be defined either in state space or in a latent feature space. This can increase the efficiency of learning by using a curriculum, and also enables simultaneous learning and generalization across goals. A crucial requirement of goal-conditioned policies is to be able to determine whether the goal has been achieved. Having a notion of distance to a goal is thus a crucial component of this approach. However, it is not straightforward to come up with an appropriate distance, and in some tasks, the goal space may not even be known a priori. In this work we learn a distance-to-goal estimate which is computed in terms of the number of actions that would need to be carried out in a self-supervised approach. Our method solves complex tasks without prior domain knowledge in the online setting in three different scenarios in the context of goal-conditioned policies a) the goal space is the same as the state space b) the goal space is given but an appropriate distance is unknown and c) the state space is accessible, but only a subset of the state space represents desired goals, and this subset is known a priori. We also propose a goal-generation mechanism as a secondary contribution.
 
Curiosity Driven Exploration of Learned Disentangled Goal Spaces2018-11-04   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Intrinsically motivated goal exploration processes enable agents to autonomously sample goals to explore efficiently complex environments with high-dimensional continuous actions. They have been applied successfully to real world robots to discover repertoires of policies producing a wide diversity of effects. Often these algorithms relied on engineered goal spaces but it was recently shown that one can use deep representation learning algorithms to learn an adequate goal space in simple environments. However, in the case of more complex environments containing multiple objects or distractors, an efficient exploration requires that the structure of the goal space reflects the one of the environment. In this paper we show that using a disentangled goal space leads to better exploration performances than an entangled goal space. We further show that when the representation is disentangled, one can leverage it by sampling goals that maximize learning progress in a modular manner. Finally, we show that the measure of learning progress, used to drive curiosity-driven exploration, can be used simultaneously to discover abstract independently controllable features of the environment.
 
Deep Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning Based Recommendations via Multi-goals Abstraction2019-03-22   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
The recommender system is an important form of intelligent application, which assists users to alleviate from information redundancy. Among the metrics used to evaluate a recommender system, the metric of conversion has become more and more important. The majority of existing recommender systems perform poorly on the metric of conversion due to its extremely sparse feedback signal. To tackle this challenge, we propose a deep hierarchical reinforcement learning based recommendation framework, which consists of two components, i.e., high-level agent and low-level agent. The high-level agent catches long-term sparse conversion signals, and automatically sets abstract goals for low-level agent, while the low-level agent follows the abstract goals and interacts with real-time environment. To solve the inherent problem in hierarchical reinforcement learning, we propose a novel deep hierarchical reinforcement learning algorithm via multi-goals abstraction (HRL-MG). Our proposed algorithm contains three characteristics: 1) the high-level agent generates multiple goals to guide the low-level agent in different stages, which reduces the difficulty of approaching high-level goals; 2) different goals share the same state encoder parameters, which increases the update frequency of the high-level agent and thus accelerates the convergence of our proposed algorithm; 3) an appreciate benefit assignment function is designed to allocate rewards in each goal so as to coordinate different goals in a consistent direction. We evaluate our proposed algorithm based on a real-world e-commerce dataset and validate its effectiveness.
 
Hierarchical Policy Learning is Sensitive to Goal Space Design2019-06-25   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Hierarchy in reinforcement learning agents allows for control at multiple time scales yielding improved sample efficiency, the ability to deal with long time horizons and transferability of sub-policies to tasks outside the training distribution. It is often implemented as a master policy providing goals to a sub-policy. Ideally, we would like the goal-spaces to be learned, however, properties of optimal goal spaces still remain unknown and consequently there is no method yet to learn optimal goal spaces. Motivated by this, we systematically analyze how various modifications to the ground-truth goal-space affect learning in hierarchical models with the aim of identifying important properties of optimal goal spaces. Our results show that, while rotation of ground-truth goal spaces and noise had no effect, having additional unnecessary factors significantly impaired learning in hierarchical models.
 
Visual Reinforcement Learning with Imagined Goals2018-12-04   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
For an autonomous agent to fulfill a wide range of user-specified goals at test time, it must be able to learn broadly applicable and general-purpose skill repertoires. Furthermore, to provide the requisite level of generality, these skills must handle raw sensory input such as images. In this paper, we propose an algorithm that acquires such general-purpose skills by combining unsupervised representation learning and reinforcement learning of goal-conditioned policies. Since the particular goals that might be required at test-time are not known in advance, the agent performs a self-supervised "practice" phase where it imagines goals and attempts to achieve them. We learn a visual representation with three distinct purposes: sampling goals for self-supervised practice, providing a structured transformation of raw sensory inputs, and computing a reward signal for goal reaching. We also propose a retroactive goal relabeling scheme to further improve the sample-efficiency of our method. Our off-policy algorithm is efficient enough to learn policies that operate on raw image observations and goals for a real-world robotic system, and substantially outperforms prior techniques.
 
Unsupervised Control Through Non-Parametric Discriminative Rewards2018-11-27   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Learning to control an environment without hand-crafted rewards or expert data remains challenging and is at the frontier of reinforcement learning research. We present an unsupervised learning algorithm to train agents to achieve perceptually-specified goals using only a stream of observations and actions. Our agent simultaneously learns a goal-conditioned policy and a goal achievement reward function that measures how similar a state is to the goal state. This dual optimization leads to a co-operative game, giving rise to a learned reward function that reflects similarity in controllable aspects of the environment instead of distance in the space of observations. We demonstrate the efficacy of our agent to learn, in an unsupervised manner, to reach a diverse set of goals on three domains -- Atari, the DeepMind Control Suite and DeepMind Lab.
 
Skew-Fit: State-Covering Self-Supervised Reinforcement Learning2020-02-09   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Autonomous agents that must exhibit flexible and broad capabilities will need to be equipped with large repertoires of skills. Defining each skill with a manually-designed reward function limits this repertoire and imposes a manual engineering burden. Self-supervised agents that set their own goals can automate this process, but designing appropriate goal setting objectives can be difficult, and often involves heuristic design decisions. In this paper, we propose a formal exploration objective for goal-reaching policies that maximizes state coverage. We show that this objective is equivalent to maximizing goal reaching performance together with the entropy of the goal distribution, where goals correspond to full state observations. To instantiate this principle, we present an algorithm called Skew-Fit for learning a maximum-entropy goal distributions. We prove that, under regularity conditions, Skew-Fit converges to a uniform distribution over the set of valid states, even when we do not know this set beforehand. Our experiments show that combining Skew-Fit for learning goal distributions with existing goal-reaching methods outperforms a variety of prior methods on open-sourced visual goal-reaching tasks. Moreover, we demonstrate that \METHOD enables a real-world robot to learn to open a door, entirely from scratch, from pixels, and without any manually-designed reward function.
 
Language as a Cognitive Tool to Imagine Goals in Curiosity-Driven Exploration2020-06-12   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Developmental machine learning studies how artificial agents can model the way children learn open-ended repertoires of skills. Such agents need to create and represent goals, select which ones to pursue and learn to achieve them. Recent approaches have considered goal spaces that were either fixed and hand-defined or learned using generative models of states. This limited agents to sample goals within the distribution of known effects. We argue that the ability to imagine out-of-distribution goals is key to enable creative discoveries and open-ended learning. Children do so by leveraging the compositionality of language as a tool to imagine descriptions of outcomes they never experienced before, targeting them as goals during play. We introduce Imagine, an intrinsically motivated deep reinforcement learning architecture that models this ability. Such imaginative agents, like children, benefit from the guidance of a social peer who provides language descriptions. To take advantage of goal imagination, agents must be able to leverage these descriptions to interpret their imagined out-of-distribution goals. This generalization is made possible by modularity: a decomposition between learned goal-achievement reward function and policy relying on deep sets, gated attention and object-centered representations. We introduce the Playground environment and study how this form of goal imagination improves generalization and exploration over agents lacking this capacity. In addition, we identify the properties of goal imagination that enable these results and study the impacts of modularity and social interactions.
 
Deep Reinforcement Learning for Complex Manipulation Tasks with Sparse Feedback2020-01-12   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Learning optimal policies from sparse feedback is a known challenge in reinforcement learning. Hindsight Experience Replay (HER) is a multi-goal reinforcement learning algorithm that comes to solve such tasks. The algorithm treats every failure as a success for an alternative (virtual) goal that has been achieved in the episode and then generalizes from that virtual goal to real goals. HER has known flaws and is limited to relatively simple tasks. In this thesis, we present three algorithms based on the existing HER algorithm that improves its performances. First, we prioritize virtual goals from which the agent will learn more valuable information. We call this property the \textit{instructiveness} of the virtual goal and define it by a heuristic measure, which expresses how well the agent will be able to generalize from that virtual goal to actual goals. Secondly, we designed a filtering process that detects and removes misleading samples that may induce bias throughout the learning process. Lastly, we enable the learning of complex, sequential, tasks using a form of curriculum learning combined with HER. We call this algorithm \textit{Curriculum HER}. To test our algorithms, we built three challenging manipulation environments with sparse reward functions. Each environment has three levels of complexity. Our empirical results show vast improvement in the final success rate and sample efficiency when compared to the original HER algorithm.
 
Neuromodulated Goal-Driven Perception in Uncertain Domains2019-02-16   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
In uncertain domains, the goals are often unknown and need to be predicted by the organism or system. In this paper, contrastive excitation backprop (c-EB) was used in a goal-driven perception task with pairs of noisy MNIST digits, where the system had to increase attention to one of the two digits corresponding to a goal (i.e., even, odd, low value, or high value) and decrease attention to the distractor digit or noisy background pixels. Because the valid goal was unknown, an online learning model based on the cholinergic and noradrenergic neuromodulatory systems was used to predict a noisy goal (expected uncertainty) and re-adapt when the goal changed (unexpected uncertainty). This neurobiologically plausible model demonstrates how neuromodulatory systems can predict goals in uncertain domains and how attentional mechanisms can enhance the perception of that goal.
 
Forward-Backward Reinforcement Learning2018-03-27   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Goals for reinforcement learning problems are typically defined through hand-specified rewards. To design such problems, developers of learning algorithms must inherently be aware of what the task goals are, yet we often require agents to discover them on their own without any supervision beyond these sparse rewards. While much of the power of reinforcement learning derives from the concept that agents can learn with little guidance, this requirement greatly burdens the training process. If we relax this one restriction and endow the agent with knowledge of the reward function, and in particular of the goal, we can leverage backwards induction to accelerate training. To achieve this, we propose training a model to learn to take imagined reversal steps from known goal states. Rather than training an agent exclusively to determine how to reach a goal while moving forwards in time, our approach travels backwards to jointly predict how we got there. We evaluate our work in Gridworld and Towers of Hanoi and empirically demonstrate that it yields better performance than standard DDQN.
 
Complex Robotic Manipulation via Graph-Based Hindsight Goal Generation2020-07-27   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Reinforcement learning algorithms such as hindsight experience replay (HER) and hindsight goal generation (HGG) have been able to solve challenging robotic manipulation tasks in multi-goal settings with sparse rewards. HER achieves its training success through hindsight replays of past experience with heuristic goals, but under-performs in challenging tasks in which goals are difficult to explore. HGG enhances HER by selecting intermediate goals that are easy to achieve in the short term and promising to lead to target goals in the long term. This guided exploration makes HGG applicable to tasks in which target goals are far away from the object's initial position. However, HGG is not applicable to manipulation tasks with obstacles because the euclidean metric used for HGG is not an accurate distance metric in such environments. In this paper, we propose graph-based hindsight goal generation (G-HGG), an extension of HGG selecting hindsight goals based on shortest distances in an obstacle-avoiding graph, which is a discrete representation of the environment. We evaluated G-HGG on four challenging manipulation tasks with obstacles, where significant enhancements in both sample efficiency and overall success rate are shown over HGG and HER. Videos can be viewed at https://sites.google.com/view/demos-g-hgg/.
 
Language Grounding through Social Interactions and Curiosity-Driven Multi-Goal Learning2019-11-08   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Autonomous reinforcement learning agents, like children, do not have access to predefined goals and reward functions. They must discover potential goals, learn their own reward functions and engage in their own learning trajectory. Children, however, benefit from exposure to language, helping to organize and mediate their thought. We propose LE2 (Language Enhanced Exploration), a learning algorithm leveraging intrinsic motivations and natural language (NL) interactions with a descriptive social partner (SP). Using NL descriptions from the SP, it can learn an NL-conditioned reward function to formulate goals for intrinsically motivated goal exploration and learn a goal-conditioned policy. By exploring, collecting descriptions from the SP and jointly learning the reward function and the policy, the agent grounds NL descriptions into real behavioral goals. From simple goals discovered early to more complex goals discovered by experimenting on simpler ones, our agent autonomously builds its own behavioral repertoire. This naturally occurring curriculum is supplemented by an active learning curriculum resulting from the agent's intrinsic motivations. Experiments are presented with a simulated robotic arm that interacts with several objects including tools.
 
PlanGAN: Model-based Planning With Sparse Rewards and Multiple Goals2020-06-01   ${\displaystyle \cong }$
Learning with sparse rewards remains a significant challenge in reinforcement learning (RL), especially when the aim is to train a policy capable of achieving multiple different goals. To date, the most successful approaches for dealing with multi-goal, sparse reward environments have been model-free RL algorithms. In this work we propose PlanGAN, a model-based algorithm specifically designed for solving multi-goal tasks in environments with sparse rewards. Our method builds on the fact that any trajectory of experience collected by an agent contains useful information about how to achieve the goals observed during that trajectory. We use this to train an ensemble of conditional generative models (GANs) to generate plausible trajectories that lead the agent from its current state towards a specified goal. We then combine these imagined trajectories into a novel planning algorithm in order to achieve the desired goal as efficiently as possible. The performance of PlanGAN has been tested on a number of robotic navigation/manipulation tasks in comparison with a range of model-free reinforcement learning baselines, including Hindsight Experience Replay. Our studies indicate that PlanGAN can achieve comparable performance whilst being around 4-8 times more sample efficient.