We investigate whether Deep Reinforcement Learning (Deep RL) is able to synthesize sophisticated and safe movement skills for a low-cost, miniature humanoid robot that can be composed into complex behavioral strategies in dynamic environments. We used Deep RL to train a humanoid robot with 20 actuated joints to play a simplified one-versus-one (1v1) soccer game. We first trained individual skills in isolation and then composed those skills end-to-end in a self-play setting. The resulting policy exhibits robust and dynamic movement skills such as rapid fall recovery, walking, turning, kicking and more; and transitions between them in a smooth, stable, and efficient manner - well beyond what is intuitively expected from the robot. The agents also developed a basic strategic understanding of the game, and learned, for instance, to anticipate ball movements and to block opponent shots. The full range of behaviors emerged from a small set of simple rewards. Our agents were trained in simulation and transferred to real robots zero-shot. We found that a combination of sufficiently high-frequency control, targeted dynamics randomization, and perturbations during training in simulation enabled good-quality transfer, despite significant unmodeled effects and variations across robot instances. Although the robots are inherently fragile, minor hardware modifications together with basic regularization of the behavior during training led the robots to learn safe and effective movements while still performing in a dynamic and agile way. Indeed, even though the agents were optimized for scoring, in experiments they walked 156% faster, took 63% less time to get up, and kicked 24% faster than a scripted baseline, while efficiently combining the skills to achieve the longer term objectives. Examples of the emergent behaviors and full 1v1 matches are available on the supplementary website.
The ability to effectively reuse prior knowledge is a key requirement when building general and flexible Reinforcement Learning (RL) agents. Skill reuse is one of the most common approaches, but current methods have considerable limitations.For example, fine-tuning an existing policy frequently fails, as the policy can degrade rapidly early in training. In a similar vein, distillation of expert behavior can lead to poor results when given sub-optimal experts. We compare several common approaches for skill transfer on multiple domains including changes in task and system dynamics. We identify how existing methods can fail and introduce an alternative approach to mitigate these problems. Our approach learns to sequence existing temporally-extended skills for exploration but learns the final policy directly from the raw experience. This conceptual split enables rapid adaptation and thus efficient data collection but without constraining the final solution.It significantly outperforms many classical methods across a suite of evaluation tasks and we use a broad set of ablations to highlight the importance of differentc omponents of our method.
The ability to discover useful behaviours from past experience and transfer them to new tasks is considered a core component of natural embodied intelligence. Inspired by neuroscience, discovering behaviours that switch at bottleneck states have been long sought after for inducing plans of minimum description length across tasks. Prior approaches have either only supported online, on-policy, bottleneck state discovery, limiting sample-efficiency, or discrete state-action domains, restricting applicability. To address this, we introduce Model-Based Offline Options (MO2), an offline hindsight framework supporting sample-efficient bottleneck option discovery over continuous state-action spaces. Once bottleneck options are learnt offline over source domains, they are transferred online to improve exploration and value estimation on the transfer domain. Our experiments show that on complex long-horizon continuous control tasks with sparse, delayed rewards, MO2's properties are essential and lead to performance exceeding recent option learning methods. Additional ablations further demonstrate the impact on option predictability and credit assignment.
For robots operating in the real world, it is desirable to learn reusable behaviours that can effectively be transferred and adapted to numerous tasks and scenarios. We propose an approach to learn abstract motor skills from data using a hierarchical mixture latent variable model. In contrast to existing work, our method exploits a three-level hierarchy of both discrete and continuous latent variables, to capture a set of high-level behaviours while allowing for variance in how they are executed. We demonstrate in manipulation domains that the method can effectively cluster offline data into distinct, executable behaviours, while retaining the flexibility of a continuous latent variable model. The resulting skills can be transferred and fine-tuned on new tasks, unseen objects, and from state to vision-based policies, yielding better sample efficiency and asymptotic performance compared to existing skill- and imitation-based methods. We further analyse how and when the skills are most beneficial: they encourage directed exploration to cover large regions of the state space relevant to the task, making them most effective in challenging sparse-reward settings.
Strategic diversity is often essential in games: in multi-player games, for example, evaluating a player against a diverse set of strategies will yield a more accurate estimate of its performance. Furthermore, in games with non-transitivities diversity allows a player to cover several winning strategies. However, despite the significance of strategic diversity, training agents that exhibit diverse behaviour remains a challenge. In this paper we study how to construct diverse populations of agents by carefully structuring how individuals within a population interact. Our approach is based on interaction graphs, which control the flow of information between agents during training and can encourage agents to specialise on different strategies, leading to improved overall performance. We provide evidence for the importance of diversity in multi-agent training and analyse the effect of applying different interaction graphs on the training trajectories, diversity and performance of populations in a range of games. This is an extended version of the long abstract published at AAMAS.
As we deploy reinforcement learning agents to solve increasingly challenging problems, methods that allow us to inject prior knowledge about the structure of the world and effective solution strategies becomes increasingly important. In this work we consider how information and architectural constraints can be combined with ideas from the probabilistic modeling literature to learn behavior priors that capture the common movement and interaction patterns that are shared across a set of related tasks or contexts. For example the day-to day behavior of humans comprises distinctive locomotion and manipulation patterns that recur across many different situations and goals. We discuss how such behavior patterns can be captured using probabilistic trajectory models and how these can be integrated effectively into reinforcement learning schemes, e.g.\ to facilitate multi-task and transfer learning. We then extend these ideas to latent variable models and consider a formulation to learn hierarchical priors that capture different aspects of the behavior in reusable modules. We discuss how such latent variable formulations connect to related work on hierarchical reinforcement learning (HRL) and mutual information and curiosity based objectives, thereby offering an alternative perspective on existing ideas. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our framework by applying it to a range of simulated continuous control domains.
Solutions to most complex tasks can be decomposed into simpler, intermediate skills, reusable across wider ranges of problems. We follow this concept and introduce Hindsight Off-policy Options (HO2), a new algorithm for efficient and robust option learning. The algorithm relies on critic-weighted maximum likelihood estimation and an efficient dynamic programming inference procedure over off-policy trajectories. We can backpropagate through the inference procedure through time and the policy components for every time-step, making it possible to train all component's parameters off-policy, independently of the data-generating behavior policy. Experimentally, we demonstrate that HO2 outperforms competitive baselines and solves demanding robot stacking and ball-in-cup tasks from raw pixel inputs in simulation. We further compare autoregressive option policies with simple mixture policies, providing insights into the relative impact of two types of abstractions common in the options framework: action abstraction and temporal abstraction. Finally, we illustrate challenges caused by stale data in off-policy options learning and provide effective solutions.
Some of the most successful applications of deep reinforcement learning to challenging domains in discrete and continuous control have used policy gradient methods in the on-policy setting. However, policy gradients can suffer from large variance that may limit performance, and in practice require carefully tuned entropy regularization to prevent policy collapse. As an alternative to policy gradient algorithms, we introduce V-MPO, an on-policy adaptation of Maximum a Posteriori Policy Optimization (MPO) that performs policy iteration based on a learned state-value function. We show that V-MPO surpasses previously reported scores for both the Atari-57 and DMLab-30 benchmark suites in the multi-task setting, and does so reliably without importance weighting, entropy regularization, or population-based tuning of hyperparameters. On individual DMLab and Atari levels, the proposed algorithm can achieve scores that are substantially higher than has previously been reported. V-MPO is also applicable to problems with high-dimensional, continuous action spaces, which we demonstrate in the context of learning to control simulated humanoids with 22 degrees of freedom from full state observations and 56 degrees of freedom from pixel observations, as well as example OpenAI Gym tasks where V-MPO achieves substantially higher asymptotic scores than previously reported.
Many real world tasks exhibit rich structure that is repeated across different parts of the state space or in time. In this work we study the possibility of leveraging such repeated structure to speed up and regularize learning. We start from the KL regularized expected reward objective which introduces an additional component, a default policy. Instead of relying on a fixed default policy, we learn it from data. But crucially, we restrict the amount of information the default policy receives, forcing it to learn reusable behaviors that help the policy learn faster. We formalize this strategy and discuss connections to information bottleneck approaches and to the variational EM algorithm. We present empirical results in both discrete and continuous action domains and demonstrate that, for certain tasks, learning a default policy alongside the policy can significantly speed up and improve learning.