Guided Meta-Policy Search

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Russell Mendonca, Abhishek Gupta, Rosen Kralev, Pieter Abbeel, Sergey Levine, Chelsea Finn


Reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms have demonstrated promising results on complex tasks, yet often require impractical numbers of samples because they learn from scratch. Meta-RL aims to address this challenge by leveraging experience from previous tasks so as to more quickly solve new tasks. However, in practice, these algorithms generally also require large amounts of on-policy experience during the \emph{meta-training} process, making them impractical for use in many problems. To this end, we propose to learn a reinforcement learning procedure in a federated way, where individual off-policy learners can solve the individual meta-training tasks, and then consolidate these solutions into a single meta-learner. Since the central meta-learner learns by imitating the solutions to the individual tasks, it can accommodate either the standard meta-RL problem setting, or a hybrid setting where some or all tasks are provided with example demonstrations. The former results in an approach that can leverage policies learned for previous tasks without significant amounts of on-policy data during meta-training, whereas the latter is particularly useful in cases where demonstrations are easy for a person to provide. Across a number of continuous control meta-RL problems, we demonstrate significant improvements in meta-RL sample efficiency in comparison to prior work as well as the ability to scale to domains with visual observations.