Prakash, Bharat (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) | Khatwani, Mohit (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) | Waytowich, Nicholas (US Army Research Laboratory) | Mohsenin, Tinoosh (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Recent progress in AI and Reinforcement learning has shown great success in solving complex problems with high dimensional state spaces. However, most of these successes have been primarily in simulated environments where failure is of little or no consequence. Most real-world applications, however, require training solutions that are safe to operate as catastrophic failures are inadmissible especially when there is human interaction involved. Currently, Safe RL systems use human oversight during training and exploration in order to make sure the RL agent does not go into a catastrophic state. These methods require a large amount of human labor and it is very difficult to scale up. We present a hybrid method for reducing the human intervention time by combining model-based approaches and training a supervised learner to to improve sample efficiency while also ensuring safety. We evaluate these methods on various grid-world environments using both standard and visual representations and show that our approach achieves better performance in terms of sample efficiency, number of catastrophic states reached as well as overall task performance compared to traditional model-free approaches.
Before deploying autonomous agents in the real world, we need to be confident they will perform safely in novel situations. Ideally, we would expose agents to a very wide range of situations during training, allowing them to learn about every possible danger, but this is often impractical. This paper investigates safety and generalization from a limited number of training environments in deep reinforcement learning (RL). We find RL algorithms can fail dangerously on unseen test environments even when performing perfectly on training environments. Firstly, in a gridworld setting, we show that catastrophes can be significantly reduced with simple modifications, including ensemble model averaging and the use of a blocking classifier. In the more challenging CoinRun environment we find similar methods do not significantly reduce catastrophes. However, we do find that the uncertainty information from the ensemble is useful for predicting whether a catastrophe will occur within a few steps and hence whether human intervention should be requested.
Recent success in deep reinforcement learning for continuous control has been dominated by model-free approaches which, unlike model-based approaches, do not suffer from representational limitations in making assumptions about the world dynamics and model errors inevitable in complex domains. However, they require a lot of experiences compared to model-based approaches that are typically more sample-efficient. We propose to combine the benefits of the two approaches by presenting an integrated approach called Curious Meta-Controller. Our approach alternates adaptively between model-based and model-free control using a curiosity feedback based on the learning progress of a neural model of the dynamics in a learned latent space. We demonstrate that our approach can significantly improve the sample efficiency and achieve near-optimal performance on learning robotic reaching and grasping tasks from raw-pixel input in both dense and sparse reward settings.
Model-based Reinforcement Learning approaches have the promise of being sample efficient. Much of the progress in learning dynamics models in RL has been made by learning models via supervised learning. But traditional model-based approaches lead to `compounding errors' when the model is unrolled step by step. Essentially, the state transitions that the learner predicts (by unrolling the model for multiple steps) and the state transitions that the learner experiences (by acting in the environment) may not be consistent. There is enough evidence that humans build a model of the environment, not only by observing the environment but also by interacting with the environment. Interaction with the environment allows humans to carry out experiments: taking actions that help uncover true causal relationships which can be used for building better dynamics models. Analogously, we would expect such interactions to be helpful for a learning agent while learning to model the environment dynamics. In this paper, we build upon this intuition by using an auxiliary cost function to ensure consistency between what the agent observes (by acting in the real world) and what it imagines (by acting in the `learned' world). We consider several tasks - Mujoco based control tasks and Atari games - and show that the proposed approach helps to train powerful policies and better dynamics models.
We introduce Dynamic Planning Networks (DPN), a novel architecture for deep reinforcement learning, that combines model-based and model-free aspects for online planning. Our architecture learns to dynamically construct plans using a learned state-transition model by selecting and traversing between simulated states and actions to maximize information before acting. In contrast to model-free methods, model-based planning lets the agent efficiently test action hypotheses without performing costly trial-and-error in the environment. DPN learns to efficiently form plans by expanding a single action-conditional state transition at a time instead of exhaustively evaluating each action, reducing the required number of state-transitions during planning by up to 96%. We observe various emergent planning patterns used to solve environments, including classical search methods such as breadth-first and depth-first search. DPN shows improved data efficiency, performance, and generalization to new and unseen domains in comparison to several baselines.