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Jiafei Lyu, Xiaoteng Ma, Le Wan, Runze Liu, Xiu Li, Zongqing Lu

Offline reinforcement learning (RL) has attracted much attention due to its ability in learning from static offline datasets and eliminating the need of interacting with the environment. Nevertheless, the success of offline RL relies heavily on the offline transitions annotated with reward labels. In practice, we often need to hand-craft the reward function, which is sometimes difficult, labor-intensive, or inefficient. To tackle this challenge, we set our focus on the offline imitation learning (IL) setting, and aim at getting a reward function based on the expert data and unlabeled data. To that end, we propose a simple yet effective search-based offline IL method, tagged SEABO. SEABO allocates a larger reward to the transition that is close to its closest neighbor in the expert demonstration, and a smaller reward otherwise, all in an unsupervised learning manner. Experimental results on a variety of D4RL datasets indicate that SEABO can achieve competitive performance to offline RL algorithms with ground-truth rewards, given only a single expert trajectory, and can outperform prior reward learning and offline IL methods across many tasks. Moreover, we demonstrate that SEABO also works well if the expert demonstrations contain only observations. Our code is publicly available at https://github.com/dmksjfl/SEABO.

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Rui Yang, Yong Lin, Xiaoteng Ma, Hao Hu, Chongjie Zhang, Tong Zhang

Offline goal-conditioned RL (GCRL) offers a way to train general-purpose agents from fully offline datasets. In addition to being conservative within the dataset, the generalization ability to achieve unseen goals is another fundamental challenge for offline GCRL. However, to the best of our knowledge, this problem has not been well studied yet. In this paper, we study out-of-distribution (OOD) generalization of offline GCRL both theoretically and empirically to identify factors that are important. In a number of experiments, we observe that weighted imitation learning enjoys better generalization than pessimism-based offline RL method. Based on this insight, we derive a theory for OOD generalization, which characterizes several important design choices. We then propose a new offline GCRL method, Generalizable Offline goAl-condiTioned RL (GOAT), by combining the findings from our theoretical and empirical studies. On a new benchmark containing 9 independent identically distributed (IID) tasks and 17 OOD tasks, GOAT outperforms current state-of-the-art methods by a large margin.

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Kang Xu, Chenjia Bai, Xiaoteng Ma, Dong Wang, Bin Zhao, Zhen Wang, Xuelong Li, Wei Li

Generalizing policies across different domains with dynamics mismatch poses a significant challenge in reinforcement learning. For example, a robot learns the policy in a simulator, but when it is deployed in the real world, the dynamics of the environment may be different. Given the source and target domain with dynamics mismatch, we consider the online dynamics adaptation problem, in which case the agent can access sufficient source domain data while online interactions with the target domain are limited. Existing research has attempted to solve the problem from the dynamics discrepancy perspective. In this work, we reveal the limitations of these methods and explore the problem from the value difference perspective via a novel insight on the value consistency across domains. Specifically, we present the Value-Guided Data Filtering (VGDF) algorithm, which selectively shares transitions from the source domain based on the proximity of paired value targets across the two domains. Empirical results on various environments with kinematic and morphology shifts demonstrate that our method achieves superior performance compared to prior approaches.

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Yuhua Jiang, Qihan Liu, Xiaoteng Ma, Chenghao Li, Yiqin Yang, Jun Yang, Bin Liang, Qianchuan Zhao

Among the great successes of Reinforcement Learning (RL), self-play algorithms play an essential role in solving competitive games. Current self-play algorithms optimize the agent to maximize expected win-rates against its current or historical copies, making it often stuck in the local optimum and its strategy style simple and homogeneous. A possible solution is to improve the diversity of policies, which helps the agent break the stalemate and enhances its robustness when facing different opponents. However, enhancing diversity in the self-play algorithms is not trivial. In this paper, we aim to introduce diversity from the perspective that agents could have diverse risk preferences in the face of uncertainty. Specifically, we design a novel reinforcement learning algorithm called Risk-sensitive Proximal Policy Optimization (RPPO), which smoothly interpolates between worst-case and best-case policy learning and allows for policy learning with desired risk preferences. Seamlessly integrating RPPO with population-based self-play, agents in the population optimize dynamic risk-sensitive objectives with experiences from playing against diverse opponents. Empirical results show that our method achieves comparable or superior performance in competitive games and that diverse modes of behaviors emerge. Our code is public online at \url{https://github.com/Jackory/RPBT}.

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Junjie Zhang, Jiafei Lyu, Xiaoteng Ma, Jiangpeng Yan, Jun Yang, Le Wan, Xiu Li

Equipped with the trained environmental dynamics, model-based offline reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms can often successfully learn good policies from fixed-sized datasets, even some datasets with poor quality. Unfortunately, however, it can not be guaranteed that the generated samples from the trained dynamics model are reliable (e.g., some synthetic samples may lie outside of the support region of the static dataset). To address this issue, we propose Trajectory Truncation with Uncertainty (TATU), which adaptively truncates the synthetic trajectory if the accumulated uncertainty along the trajectory is too large. We theoretically show the performance bound of TATU to justify its benefits. To empirically show the advantages of TATU, we first combine it with two classical model-based offline RL algorithms, MOPO and COMBO. Furthermore, we integrate TATU with several off-the-shelf model-free offline RL algorithms, e.g., BCQ. Experimental results on the D4RL benchmark show that TATU significantly improves their performance, often by a large margin.

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Zhipeng Liang, Xiaoteng Ma, Jose Blanchet, Jiheng Zhang, Zhengyuan Zhou

As a framework for sequential decision-making, Reinforcement Learning (RL) has been regarded as an essential component leading to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). However, RL is often criticized for having the same training environment as the test one, which also hinders its application in the real world. To mitigate this problem, Distributionally Robust RL (DRRL) is proposed to improve the worst performance in a set of environments that may contain the unknown test environment. Due to the nonlinearity of the robustness goal, most of the previous work resort to the model-based approach, learning with either an empirical distribution learned from the data or a simulator that can be sampled infinitely, which limits their applications in simple dynamics environments. In contrast, we attempt to design a DRRL algorithm that can be trained along a single trajectory, i.e., no repeated sampling from a state. Based on the standard Q-learning, we propose distributionally robust Q-learning with the single trajectory (DRQ) and its average-reward variant named differential DRQ. We provide asymptotic convergence guarantees and experiments for both settings, demonstrating their superiority in the perturbed environments against the non-robust ones.

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Xiaoteng Ma, Zhipeng Liang, Jose Blanchet, Mingwen Liu, Li Xia, Jiheng Zhang, Qianchuan Zhao, Zhengyuan Zhou

Among the reasons hindering reinforcement learning (RL) applications to real-world problems, two factors are critical: limited data and the mismatch between the testing environment (real environment in which the policy is deployed) and the training environment (e.g., a simulator). This paper attempts to address these issues simultaneously with distributionally robust offline RL, where we learn a distributionally robust policy using historical data obtained from the source environment by optimizing against a worst-case perturbation thereof. In particular, we move beyond tabular settings and consider linear function approximation. More specifically, we consider two settings, one where the dataset is well-explored and the other where the dataset has sufficient coverage. We propose two algorithms -- one for each of the two settings -- that achieve error bounds $\tilde{O}(d^{1/2}/N^{1/2})$ and $\tilde{O}(d^{3/2}/N^{1/2})$ respectively, where $d$ is the dimension in the linear function approximation and $N$ is the number of trajectories in the dataset. To the best of our knowledge, they provide the first non-asymptotic results of the sample complexity in this setting. Diverse experiments are conducted to demonstrate our theoretical findings, showing the superiority of our algorithm against the non-robust one.

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Hao Sun, Lei Han, Rui Yang, Xiaoteng Ma, Jian Guo, Bolei Zhou

In this work, we study the simple yet universally applicable case of reward shaping in value-based Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL). We show that reward shifting in the form of the linear transformation is equivalent to changing the initialization of the $Q$-function in function approximation. Based on such an equivalence, we bring the key insight that a positive reward shifting leads to conservative exploitation, while a negative reward shifting leads to curiosity-driven exploration. Accordingly, conservative exploitation improves offline RL value estimation, and optimistic value estimation improves exploration for online RL. We validate our insight on a range of RL tasks and show its improvement over baselines: (1) In offline RL, the conservative exploitation leads to improved performance based on off-the-shelf algorithms; (2) In online continuous control, multiple value functions with different shifting constants can be used to tackle the exploration-exploitation dilemma for better sample efficiency; (3) In discrete control tasks, a negative reward shifting yields an improvement over the curiosity-based exploration method.

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Xiaoteng Ma, Shuai Ma, Li Xia, Qianchuan Zhao

Keeping risk under control is often more crucial than maximizing expected reward in real-world decision-making situations, such as finance, robotics, autonomous driving, etc. The most natural choice of risk measures is variance, while it penalizes the upside volatility as much as the downside part. Instead, the (downside) semivariance, which captures negative deviation of a random variable under its mean, is more suitable for risk-averse proposes. This paper aims at optimizing the mean-semivariance (MSV) criterion in reinforcement learning w.r.t. steady rewards. Since semivariance is time-inconsistent and does not satisfy the standard Bellman equation, the traditional dynamic programming methods are inapplicable to MSV problems directly. To tackle this challenge, we resort to the Perturbation Analysis (PA) theory and establish the performance difference formula for MSV. We reveal that the MSV problem can be solved by iteratively solving a sequence of RL problems with a policy-dependent reward function. Further, we propose two on-policy algorithms based on the policy gradient theory and the trust region method. Finally, we conduct diverse experiments from simple bandit problems to continuous control tasks in MuJoCo, which demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed methods.

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Jiafei Lyu, Xiaoteng Ma, Xiu Li, Zongqing Lu

Offline reinforcement learning (RL) defines the task of learning from a static logged dataset without continually interacting with the environment. The distribution shift between the learned policy and the behavior policy makes it necessary for the value function to stay conservative such that out-of-distribution (OOD) actions will not be severely overestimated. However, existing approaches, penalizing the unseen actions or regularizing with the behavior policy, are too pessimistic, which suppresses the generalization of the value function and hinders the performance improvement. This paper explores mild but enough conservatism for offline learning while not harming generalization. We propose Mildly Conservative Q-learning (MCQ), where OOD actions are actively trained by assigning them proper pseudo Q values. We theoretically show that MCQ induces a policy that behaves at least as well as the behavior policy and no erroneous overestimation will occur for OOD actions. Experimental results on the D4RL benchmarks demonstrate that MCQ achieves remarkable performance compared with prior work. Furthermore, MCQ shows superior generalization ability when transferring from offline to online, and significantly outperforms baselines.

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