Hindsight Task Relabelling: Experience Replay for Sparse Reward Meta-RL

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Charles Packer, Pieter Abbeel, Joseph E. Gonzalez


Meta-reinforcement learning (meta-RL) has proven to be a successful framework for leveraging experience from prior tasks to rapidly learn new related tasks, however, current meta-RL approaches struggle to learn in sparse reward environments. Although existing meta-RL algorithms can learn strategies for adapting to new sparse reward tasks, the actual adaptation strategies are learned using hand-shaped reward functions, or require simple environments where random exploration is sufficient to encounter sparse reward. In this paper we present a formulation of hindsight relabelling for meta-RL, which relabels experience during meta-training to enable learning to learn entirely using sparse reward. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach on a suite of challenging sparse reward environments that previously required dense reward during meta-training to solve. Our approach solves these environments using the true sparse reward function, with performance comparable to training with a proxy dense reward function.