Learning Neural Network Policies with Guided Policy Search under Unknown Dynamics

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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Sergey Levine, Pieter Abbeel


We present a policy search method that uses iteratively refitted local linear models to optimize trajectory distributions for large, continuous problems. These trajectory distributions can be used within the framework of guided policy search to learn policies with an arbitrary parameterization. Our method fits time-varying linear dynamics models to speed up learning, but does not rely on learning a global model, which can be difficult when the dynamics are complex and discontinuous. We show that this hybrid approach requires many fewer samples than model-free methods, and can handle complex, nonsmooth dynamics that can pose a challenge for model-based techniques. We present experiments showing that our method can be used to learn complex neural network policies that successfully execute simulated robotic manipulation tasks in partially observed environments with numerous contact discontinuities and underactuation.