Exploration in Model-based Reinforcement Learning by Empirically Estimating Learning Progress

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 25 (NIPS 2012)

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Manuel Lopes, Tobias Lang, Marc Toussaint, Pierre-yves Oudeyer


Formal exploration approaches in model-based reinforcement learning estimate the accuracy of the currently learned model without consideration of the empirical prediction error. For example, PAC-MDP approaches such as Rmax base their model certainty on the amount of collected data, while Bayesian approaches assume a prior over the transition dynamics. We propose extensions to such approaches which drive exploration solely based on empirical estimates of the learner's accuracy and learning progress. We provide a ``sanity check'' theoretical analysis, discussing the behavior of our extensions in the standard stationary finite state-action case. We then provide experimental studies demonstrating the robustness of these exploration measures in cases of non-stationary environments or where original approaches are misled by wrong domain assumptions.