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Yilei Chen, Aldo Pacchiano, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis

In this work, we focus on the multiple-policy evaluation problem where we are given a set of $K$ target policies and the goal is to evaluate their performance (the expected total rewards) to an accuracy $\epsilon$ with probability at least $1-\delta$. We propose an algorithm named $\mathrm{CAESAR}$ to address this problem. Our approach is based on computing an approximate optimal offline sampling distribution and using the data sampled from it to perform the simultaneous estimation of the policy values. $\mathrm{CAESAR}$ consists of two phases. In the first one we produce coarse estimates of the vistation distributions of the target policies at a low order sample complexity rate that scales with $\tilde{O}(\frac{1}{\epsilon})$. In the second phase, we approximate the optimal offline sampling distribution and compute the importance weighting ratios for all target policies by minimizing a step-wise quadratic loss function inspired by the objective in DualDICE. Up to low order and logarithm terms $\mathrm{CAESAR}$ achieves a sample complexity $\tilde{O}\left(\frac{H^4}{\epsilon^2}\sum_{h=1}^H\max_{k\in[K]}\sum_{s,a}\frac{(d_h^{\pi^k}(s,a))^2}{\mu^*_h(s,a)}\right)$, where $d^{\pi}$ is the visitation distribution of policy $\pi$ and $\mu^*$ is the optimal sampling distribution.

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Ehsan Sabouni, H. M. Sabbir Ahmad, Vittorio Giammarino, Christos G. Cassandras, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis, Wenchao Li

Optimal control methods provide solutions to safety-critical problems but easily become intractable. Control Barrier Functions (CBFs) have emerged as a popular technique that facilitates their solution by provably guaranteeing safety, through their forward invariance property, at the expense of some performance loss. This approach involves defining a performance objective alongside CBF-based safety constraints that must always be enforced. Unfortunately, both performance and solution feasibility can be significantly impacted by two key factors: (i) the selection of the cost function and associated parameters, and (ii) the calibration of parameters within the CBF-based constraints, which capture the trade-off between performance and conservativeness. %as well as infeasibility. To address these challenges, we propose a Reinforcement Learning (RL)-based Receding Horizon Control (RHC) approach leveraging Model Predictive Control (MPC) with CBFs (MPC-CBF). In particular, we parameterize our controller and use bilevel optimization, where RL is used to learn the optimal parameters while MPC computes the optimal control input. We validate our method by applying it to the challenging automated merging control problem for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) at conflicting roadways. Results demonstrate improved performance and a significant reduction in the number of infeasible cases compared to traditional heuristic approaches used for tuning CBF-based controllers, showcasing the effectiveness of the proposed method.

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Haoxing Tian, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis, Alex Olshevsky

We consider a distributed setup for reinforcement learning, where each agent has a copy of the same Markov Decision Process but transitions are sampled from the corresponding Markov chain independently by each agent. We show that in this setting, we can achieve a linear speedup for TD($\lambda$), a family of popular methods for policy evaluation, in the sense that $N$ agents can evaluate a policy $N$ times faster provided the target accuracy is small enough. Notably, this speedup is achieved by ``one shot averaging,'' a procedure where the agents run TD($\lambda$) with Markov sampling independently and only average their results after the final step. This significantly reduces the amount of communication required to achieve a linear speedup relative to previous work.

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Erhan Can Ozcan, Vittorio Giammarino, James Queeney, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis

This paper investigates how to incorporate expert observations (without explicit information on expert actions) into a deep reinforcement learning setting to improve sample efficiency. First, we formulate an augmented policy loss combining a maximum entropy reinforcement learning objective with a behavioral cloning loss that leverages a forward dynamics model. Then, we propose an algorithm that automatically adjusts the weights of each component in the augmented loss function. Experiments on a variety of continuous control tasks demonstrate that the proposed algorithm outperforms various benchmarks by effectively utilizing available expert observations.

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Erhan Can Ozcan, Berk Görgülü, Mustafa G. Baydogan, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis

The most popular classification algorithms are designed to maximize classification accuracy during training. However, this strategy may fail in the presence of class imbalance since it is possible to train models with high accuracy by overfitting to the majority class. On the other hand, the Area Under the Curve (AUC) is a widely used metric to compare classification performance of different algorithms when there is a class imbalance, and various approaches focusing on the direct optimization of this metric during training have been proposed. Among them, SVM-based formulations are especially popular as this formulation allows incorporating different regularization strategies easily. In this work, we develop a prototype learning approach that relies on cutting-plane method, similar to Ranking SVM, to maximize AUC. Our algorithm learns simpler models by iteratively introducing cutting planes, thus overfitting is prevented in an unconventional way. Furthermore, it penalizes the changes in the weights at each iteration to avoid large jumps that might be observed in the test performance, thus facilitating a smooth learning process. Based on the experiments conducted on 73 binary classification datasets, our method yields the best test AUC in 25 datasets among its relevant competitors.

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Haoxing Tian, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis, Alex Olshevsky

Neural Temporal Difference (TD) Learning is an approximate temporal difference method for policy evaluation that uses a neural network for function approximation. Analysis of Neural TD Learning has proven to be challenging. In this paper we provide a convergence analysis of Neural TD Learning with a projection onto $B(\theta_0, \omega)$, a ball of fixed radius $\omega$ around the initial point $\theta_0$. We show an approximation bound of $O(\epsilon) + \tilde{O} (1/\sqrt{m})$ where $\epsilon$ is the approximation quality of the best neural network in $B(\theta_0, \omega)$ and $m$ is the width of all hidden layers in the network.

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Vittorio Giammarino, James Queeney, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis

We focus on the problem of imitation learning from visual observations, where the learning agent has access to videos of experts as its sole learning source. The challenges of this framework include the absence of expert actions and the partial observability of the environment, as the ground-truth states can only be inferred from pixels. To tackle this problem, we first conduct a theoretical analysis of imitation learning in partially observable environments. We establish upper bounds on the suboptimality of the learning agent with respect to the divergence between the expert and the agent latent state-transition distributions. Motivated by this analysis, we introduce an algorithm called Latent Adversarial Imitation from Observations, which combines off-policy adversarial imitation techniques with a learned latent representation of the agent's state from sequences of observations. In experiments on high-dimensional continuous robotic tasks, we show that our algorithm matches state-of-the-art performance while providing significant computational advantages. Additionally, we show how our method can be used to improve the efficiency of reinforcement learning from pixels by leveraging expert videos. To ensure reproducibility, we provide free access to our code.

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Zhiyu Zhang, Heng Yang, Ashok Cutkosky, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis

We study unconstrained Online Linear Optimization with Lipschitz losses. The goal is to simultaneously achieve ($i$) second order gradient adaptivity; and ($ii$) comparator norm adaptivity also known as "parameter freeness" in the literature. Existing regret bounds (Cutkosky and Orabona, 2018; Mhammedi and Koolen, 2020; Jacobsen and Cutkosky, 2022) have the suboptimal $O(\sqrt{V_T\log V_T})$ dependence on the gradient variance $V_T$, while the present work improves it to the optimal rate $O(\sqrt{V_T})$ using a novel continuous-time-inspired algorithm, without any impractical doubling trick. This result can be extended to the setting with unknown Lipschitz constant, eliminating the range ratio problem from prior works (Mhammedi and Koolen, 2020). Concretely, we first show that the aimed simultaneous adaptivity can be achieved fairly easily in a continuous time analogue of the problem, where the environment is modeled by an arbitrary continuous semimartingale. Then, our key innovation is a new discretization argument that preserves such adaptivity in the discrete time adversarial setting. This refines a non-gradient-adaptive discretization argument from (Harvey et al., 2023), both algorithmically and analytically, which could be of independent interest.

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Guoyao Shen, Boran Hao, Mengyu Li, Chad W. Farris, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis, Stephan W. Anderson, Xin Zhang

The application of compressed sensing (CS)-enabled data reconstruction for accelerating magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) remains a challenging problem. This is due to the fact that the information lost in k-space from the acceleration mask makes it difficult to reconstruct an image similar to the quality of a fully sampled image. Multiple deep learning-based structures have been proposed for MRI reconstruction using CS, both in the k-space and image domains as well as using unrolled optimization methods. However, the drawback of these structures is that they are not fully utilizing the information from both domains (k-space and image). Herein, we propose a deep learning-based attention hybrid variational network that performs learning in both the k-space and image domain. We evaluate our method on a well-known open-source MRI dataset and a clinical MRI dataset of patients diagnosed with strokes from our institution to demonstrate the performance of our network. In addition to quantitative evaluation, we undertook a blinded comparison of image quality across networks performed by a subspecialty trained radiologist. Overall, we demonstrate that our network achieves a superior performance among others under multiple reconstruction tasks.

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James Queeney, Erhan Can Ozcan, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis, Christos G. Cassandras

Robustness and safety are critical for the trustworthy deployment of deep reinforcement learning in real-world decision making applications. In particular, we require algorithms that can guarantee robust, safe performance in the presence of general environment disturbances, while making limited assumptions on the data collection process during training. In this work, we propose a safe reinforcement learning framework with robustness guarantees through the use of an optimal transport cost uncertainty set. We provide an efficient, theoretically supported implementation based on Optimal Transport Perturbations, which can be applied in a completely offline fashion using only data collected in a nominal training environment. We demonstrate the robust, safe performance of our approach on a variety of continuous control tasks with safety constraints in the Real-World Reinforcement Learning Suite.

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