Keywords: representations, out-of-distribution, generalization, deep learning, reinforcement learning
Abstract: Building sample-efficient agents that generalize out-of-distribution (OOD) in real-world settings remains a fundamental unsolved problem on the path towards achieving higher-level cognition. One particularly promising approach is to begin with low-dimensional, pretrained representations of our world, which should facilitate efficient downstream learning and generalization. By training 240 representations and over 10,000 reinforcement learning (RL) policies on a simulated robotic setup, we evaluate to what extent different properties of pretrained VAE-based representations affect the OOD generalization of downstream agents. We observe that many agents are surprisingly robust to realistic distribution shifts, including the challenging sim-to-real case. In addition, we find that the generalization performance of a simple downstream proxy task reliably predicts the generalization performance of our RL agents under a wide range of OOD settings. Such proxy tasks can thus be used to select pretrained representations that will lead to agents that generalize.
One-sentence Summary: We study the role of pretrained representations for the out-of-distribution generalization of RL agents.