#### Variational Inverse Control with Events: A General Framework for Data-Driven Reward Definition

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

#### Authors

*Justin Fu, Avi Singh, Dibya Ghosh, Larry Yang, Sergey Levine*

#### Abstract

The design of a reward function often poses a major practical challenge to real-world applications of reinforcement learning. Approaches such as inverse reinforcement learning attempt to overcome this challenge, but require expert demonstrations, which can be difficult or expensive to obtain in practice. We propose inverse event-based control, which generalizes inverse reinforcement learning methods to cases where full demonstrations are not needed, such as when only samples of desired goal states are available. Our method is grounded in an alternative perspective on control and reinforcement learning, where an agent's goal is to maximize the probability that one or more events will happen at some point in the future, rather than maximizing cumulative rewards. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our methods on continuous control tasks, with a focus on high-dimensional observations like images where rewards are hard or even impossible to specify.