Theoretically Guaranteed Policy Improvement Distilled from Model-Based Planning

Published: 09 Jun 2023, Last Modified: 02 Nov 2023PRLEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Keywords: Model-based Reinforcement Learning, Planning Theorem, Model Regularization
TL;DR: We demonstrate the theoretical guarantee of distillation from model-based planning into an RL policy and propose a novel model-based RL method.
Abstract: Model-based reinforcement learning (RL) has demonstrated remarkable successes on a range of continuous control tasks due to its high sample efficiency. To save the computation cost of conducting planning online, recent practices tend to distill optimized action sequences into an RL policy during the training phase. Although the distillation can incorporate both the foresight of planning and the exploration ability of RL policies, the theoretical understanding of these methods is yet unclear. In this paper, we extend the policy improvement step of Soft Actor-Critic (SAC) by developing an approach to distill from model-based planning to the policy. We then demonstrate that such an approach of policy improvement has a theoretical guarantee of monotonic improvement and convergence to the maximum value defined in SAC. We discuss effective design choices and implement our theory as a practical algorithm---$\textit{\textbf{M}odel-based \textbf{P}lanning \textbf{D}istilled to \textbf{P}olicy (MPDP)}$---that updates the policy jointly over multiple future time steps. Extensive experiments show that MPDP achieves better sample efficiency and asymptotic performance than both model-free and model-based planning algorithms on six continuous control benchmark tasks in MuJoCo.
Submission Number: 1