Accelerating Exploration with Unlabeled Prior Data

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Qiyang Li, Jason Zhang, Dibya Ghosh, Amy Zhang, Sergey Levine


Learning to solve tasks from a sparse reward signal is a major challenge for standard reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms. However, in the real world, agents rarely need to solve sparse reward tasks entirely from scratch. More often, we might possess prior experience to draw on that provides considerable guidance about which actions and outcomes are possible in the world, which we can use to explore more effectively for new tasks. In this work, we study how prior data without reward labels may be used to guide and accelerate exploration for an agent solving a new sparse reward task. We propose a simple approach that learns a reward model from online experience, labels the unlabeled prior data with optimistic rewards, and then uses it concurrently alongside the online data for downstream policy and critic optimization. This general formula leads to rapid exploration in several challenging sparse-reward domains where tabula rasa exploration is insufficient, including the AntMaze domain, Adroit hand manipulation domain, and a visual simulated robotic manipulation domain. Our results highlight the ease of incorporating unlabeled prior data into existing online RL algorithms, and the (perhaps surprising) effectiveness of doing so.