Online Meta-Critic Learning for Off-Policy Actor-Critic Methods

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

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Wei Zhou, Yiying Li, Yongxin Yang, Huaimin Wang, Timothy Hospedales


<p>Off-Policy Actor-Critic (OffP-AC) methods have proven successful in a variety of continuous control tasks. Normally, the critic's action-value function is updated using temporal-difference, and the critic in turn provides a loss for the actor that trains it to take actions with higher expected return. In this paper, we introduce a flexible and augmented meta-critic that observes the learning process and meta-learns an additional loss for the actor that accelerates and improves actor-critic learning. Compared to existing meta-learning algorithms, meta-critic is rapidly learned online for a single task, rather than slowly over a family of tasks. Crucially, our meta-critic is designed for off-policy based learners, which currently provide state-of-the-art reinforcement learning sample efficiency. We demonstrate that online meta-critic learning benefits to a variety of continuous control tasks when combined with contemporary OffP-AC methods DDPG, TD3 and SAC.</p>