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The Bottleneck Simulator: A Model-Based Deep Reinforcement Learning Approach

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Deep reinforcement learning has recently shown many impressive successes. However, one major obstacle towards applying such methods to real-world problems is their lack of data-efficiency. To this end, we propose the Bottleneck Simulator: a model-based reinforcement learning method which combines a learned, factorized transition model of the environment with rollout simulations to learn an effective policy from few examples. The learned transition model employs an abstract, discrete (bottleneck) state, which increases sample efficiency by reducing the number of model parameters and by exploiting structural properties of the environment. We provide a mathematical analysis of the Bottleneck Simulator in terms of fixed points of the learned policy, which reveals how performance is affected by four distinct sources of error: an error related to the abstract space structure, an error related to the transition model estimation variance, an error related to the transition model estimation bias, and an error related to the transition model class bias. Finally, we evaluate the Bottleneck Simulator on two natural language processing tasks: a text adventure game and a real-world, complex dialogue response selection task.


A Deep Reinforcement Learning Chatbot

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We present MILABOT: a deep reinforcement learning chatbot developed by the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) for the Amazon Alexa Prize competition. MILABOT is capable of conversing with humans on popular small talk topics through both speech and text. The system consists of an ensemble of natural language generation and retrieval models, including template-based models, bag-of-words models, sequence-to-sequence neural network and latent variable neural network models. By applying reinforcement learning to crowdsourced data and real-world user interactions, the system has been trained to select an appropriate response from the models in its ensemble. The system has been evaluated through A/B testing with real-world users, where it performed significantly better than many competing systems. Due to its machine learning architecture, the system is likely to improve with additional data.


A Deep Reinforcement Learning Chatbot (Short Version)

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We present MILABOT: a deep reinforcement learning chatbot developed by the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) for the Amazon Alexa Prize competition. MILABOT is capable of conversing with humans on popular small talk topics through both speech and text. The system consists of an ensemble of natural language generation and retrieval models, including neural network and template-based models. By applying reinforcement learning to crowdsourced data and real-world user interactions, the system has been trained to select an appropriate response from the models in its ensemble. The system has been evaluated through A/B testing with real-world users, where it performed significantly better than other systems. The results highlight the potential of coupling ensemble systems with deep reinforcement learning as a fruitful path for developing real-world, open-domain conversational agents.


BBQ-Networks: Efficient Exploration in Deep Reinforcement Learning for Task-Oriented Dialogue Systems

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We present a new algorithm that significantly improves the efficiency of exploration for deep Q-learning agents in dialogue systems. Our agents explore via Thompson sampling, drawing Monte Carlo samples from a Bayes-by-Backprop neural network. Our algorithm learns much faster than common exploration strategies such as $\epsilon$-greedy, Boltzmann, bootstrapping, and intrinsic-reward-based ones. Additionally, we show that spiking the replay buffer with experiences from just a few successful episodes can make Q-learning feasible when it might otherwise fail.


BBQ-Networks: Efficient Exploration in Deep Reinforcement Learning for Task-Oriented Dialogue Systems

AAAI Conferences

We present a new algorithm that significantly improves the efficiency of exploration for deep Q-learning agents in dialogue systems. Our agents explore via Thompson sampling, drawing Monte Carlo samples from a Bayes-by-Backprop neural network. Our algorithm learns much faster than common exploration strategies such as ε-greedy, Boltzmann, bootstrapping, and intrinsic-reward-based ones. Additionally, we show that spiking the replay buffer with experiences from just a few successful episodes can make Q-learning feasible when it might otherwise fail.