Data-driven deep reinforcement learning

Robohub

One of the primary factors behind the success of machine learning approaches in open world settings, such as image recognition and natural language processing, has been the ability of high-capacity deep neural network function approximators to learn generalizable models from large amounts of data. Deep reinforcement learning methods, however, require active online data collection, where the model actively interacts with its environment. This makes such methods hard to scale to complex real-world problems, where active data collection means that large datasets of experience must be collected for every experiment – this can be expensive and, for systems such as autonomous vehicles or robots, potentially unsafe. In a number of domains of practical interest, such as autonomous driving, robotics, and games, there exist plentiful amounts of previously collected interaction data which, consists of informative behaviours that are a rich source of prior information. Deep RL algorithms that can utilize such prior datasets will not only scale to real-world problems, but will also lead to solutions that generalize substantially better.


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Robohub

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Learning Unknown Markov Decision Processes: A Thompson Sampling Approach

Neural Information Processing Systems

We consider the problem of learning an unknown Markov Decision Process (MDP) that is weakly communicating in the infinite horizon setting. We propose a Thompson Sampling-based reinforcement learning algorithm with dynamic episodes (TSDE). At the beginning of each episode, the algorithm generates a sample from the posterior distribution over the unknown model parameters. It then follows the optimal stationary policy for the sampled model for the rest of the episode. The duration of each episode is dynamically determined by two stopping criteria.


Flexible statistical inference for mechanistic models of neural dynamics

Neural Information Processing Systems

Mechanistic models of single-neuron dynamics have been extensively studied in computational neuroscience. However, identifying which models can quantitatively reproduce empirically measured data has been challenging. We propose to overcome this limitation by using likelihood-free inference approaches (also known as Approximate Bayesian Computation, ABC) to perform full Bayesian inference on single-neuron models. Our approach builds on recent advances in ABC by learning a neural network which maps features of the observed data to the posterior distribution over parameters. We learn a Bayesian mixture-density network approximating the posterior over multiple rounds of adaptively chosen simulations.


New Insight into Hybrid Stochastic Gradient Descent: Beyond With-Replacement Sampling and Convexity

Neural Information Processing Systems

As an incremental-gradient algorithm, the hybrid stochastic gradient descent (HSGD) enjoys merits of both stochastic and full gradient methods for finite-sum minimization problem. However, the existing rate-of-convergence analysis for HSGD is made under with-replacement sampling (WRS) and is restricted to convex problems. It is not clear whether HSGD still carries these advantages under the common practice of without-replacement sampling (WoRS) for non-convex problems. In this paper, we affirmatively answer this open question by showing that under WoRS and for both convex and non-convex problems, it is still possible for HSGD (with constant step-size) to match full gradient descent in rate of convergence, while maintaining comparable sample-size-independent incremental first-order oracle complexity to stochastic gradient descent. For a special class of finite-sum problems with linear prediction models, our convergence results can be further improved in some cases.


A Multi-Batch L-BFGS Method for Machine Learning

Neural Information Processing Systems

The question of how to parallelize the stochastic gradient descent (SGD) method has received much attention in the literature. In this paper, we focus instead on batch methods that use a sizeable fraction of the training set at each iteration to facilitate parallelism, and that employ second-order information. In order to improve the learning process, we follow a multi-batch approach in which the batch changes at each iteration. This can cause difficulties because L-BFGS employs gradient differences to update the Hessian approximations, and when these gradients are computed using different data points the process can be unstable. This paper shows how to perform stable quasi-Newton updating in the multi-batch setting, illustrates the behavior of the algorithm in a distributed computing platform, and studies its convergence properties for both the convex and nonconvex cases.


Shape and Material from Sound

Neural Information Processing Systems

Hearing an object falling onto the ground, humans can recover rich information including its rough shape, material, and falling height. In this paper, we build machines to approximate such competency. We first mimic human knowledge of the physical world by building an efficient, physics-based simulation engine. Then, we present an analysis-by-synthesis approach to infer properties of the falling object. We further accelerate the process by learning a mapping from a sound wave to object properties, and using the predicted values to initialize the inference.


Safe and Efficient Off-Policy Reinforcement Learning

Neural Information Processing Systems

In this work, we take a fresh look at some old and new algorithms for off-policy, return-based reinforcement learning. Expressing these in a common form, we derive a novel algorithm, Retrace(lambda), with three desired properties: (1) it has low variance; (2) it safely uses samples collected from any behaviour policy, whatever its degree of "off-policyness"; and (3) it is efficient as it makes the best use of samples collected from near on-policy behaviour policies. We analyse the contractive nature of the related operator under both off-policy policy evaluation and control settings and derive online sample-based algorithms. We believe this is the first return-based off-policy control algorithm converging a.s. to Q* without the GLIE assumption (Greedy in the Limit with Infinite Exploration). As a corollary, we prove the convergence of Watkins' Q(lambda), which was an open problem since 1989.


Regression Planning Networks

Neural Information Processing Systems

Recent learning-to-plan methods have shown promising results on planning directly from observation space. Yet, their ability to plan for long-horizon tasks is limited by the accuracy of the prediction model. On the other hand, classical symbolic planners show remarkable capabilities in solving long-horizon tasks, but they require predefined symbolic rules and symbolic states, restricting their real-world applicability. In this work, we combine the benefits of these two paradigms and propose a learning-to-plan method that can directly generate a long-term symbolic plan conditioned on high-dimensional observations. We borrow the idea of regression (backward) planning from classical planning literature and introduce Regression Planning Networks (RPN), a neural network architecture that plans backward starting at a task goal and generates a sequence of intermediate goals that reaches the current observation.


FD-GAN: Pose-guided Feature Distilling GAN for Robust Person Re-identification

Neural Information Processing Systems

Person re-identification (reID) is an important task that requires to retrieve a person's images from an image dataset, given one image of the person of interest. For learning robust person features, the pose variation of person images is one of the key challenges. Existing works targeting the problem either perform human alignment, or learn human-region-based representations. Extra pose information and computational cost is generally required for inference. To solve this issue, a Feature Distilling Generative Adversarial Network (FD-GAN) is proposed for learning identity-related and pose-unrelated representations.