A Computational Decision Theory for Interactive Assistants

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 23 (NIPS 2010)

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Alan Fern, Prasad Tadepalli


We study several classes of interactive assistants from the points of view of decision theory and computational complexity. We first introduce a class of POMDPs called hidden-goal MDPs (HGMDPs), which formalize the problem of interactively assisting an agent whose goal is hidden and whose actions are observable. In spite of its restricted nature, we show that optimal action selection in finite horizon HGMDPs is PSPACE-complete even in domains with deterministic dynamics. We then introduce a more restricted model called helper action MDPs (HAMDPs), where the assistant's action is accepted by the agent when it is helpful, and can be easily ignored by the agent otherwise. We show classes of HAMDPs that are complete for PSPACE and NP along with a polynomial time class. Furthermore, we show that for general HAMDPs a simple myopic policy achieves a regret, compared to an omniscient assistant, that is bounded by the entropy of the initial goal distribution. A variation of this policy is shown to achieve worst-case regret that is logarithmic in the number of goals for any goal distribution.