Exploring Unknown Environments with Real-Time Search or Reinforcement Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 11 (NIPS 1998)

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Sven Koenig


Learning Real-Time A* (LRTA*) is a popular control method that interleaves plan(cid:173) ning and plan execution and has been shown to solve search problems in known environments efficiently. In this paper, we apply LRTA * to the problem of getting to a given goal location in an initially unknown environment. Uninformed LRTA * with maximal lookahead always moves on a shortest path to the closest unvisited state, that is, to the closest potential goal state. This was believed to be a good exploration heuristic, but we show that it does not minimize the worst-case plan-execution time compared to other uninformed exploration methods. This result is also of interest to reinforcement-learning researchers since many reinforcement learning methods use asynchronous dynamic programming, interleave planning and plan execution, and exhibit optimism in the face of uncertainty, just like LRTA *.