Learning the Linear Quadratic Regulator from Nonlinear Observations

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Zakaria Mhammedi, Dylan J. Foster, Max Simchowitz, Dipendra Misra, Wen Sun, Akshay Krishnamurthy, Alexander Rakhlin, John Langford


We introduce a new problem setting for continuous control called the LQR with Rich Observations, or RichLQR. In our setting, the environment is summarized by a low-dimensional continuous latent state with linear dynamics and quadratic costs, but the agent operates on high-dimensional, nonlinear observations such as images from a camera. To enable sample-efficient learning, we assume that the learner has access to a class of decoder functions (e.g., neural networks) that is flexible enough to capture the mapping from observations to latent states. We introduce a new algorithm, RichID, which learns a near-optimal policy for the RichLQR with sample complexity scaling only with the dimension of the latent state space and the capacity of the decoder function class. RichID is oracle-efficient and accesses the decoder class only through calls to a least-squares regression oracle. To our knowledge, our results constitute the first provable sample complexity guarantee for continuous control with an unknown nonlinearity in the system model.