What Would pi* Do?: Imitation Learning via Off-Policy Reinforcement Learning

Siddharth Reddy, Anca D. Dragan, Sergey Levine

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Learning to imitate expert actions given demonstrations containing image observations is a difficult problem in robotic control. The key challenge is generalizing behavior to out-of-distribution states that differ from those in the demonstrations. State-of-the-art imitation learning algorithms perform well in environments with low-dimensional observations, but typically involve adversarial optimization procedures, which can be difficult to use with high-dimensional image observations. We propose a remarkably simple alternative based on off-policy soft Q-learning, which we call soft Q imitation learning (SQIL, pronounced "skill"), that rewards the agent for matching demonstrated actions in demonstrated states. The key idea is initially filling the agent's experience replay buffer with demonstrations, where rewards are set to a positive constant, and setting rewards to zero in all additional experiences. We derive SQIL from first principles as a method for performing approximate inference under the MaxCausalEnt model of expert behavior. The approximate inference objective trades off between a pure behavioral cloning loss and a regularization term that incorporates information about state transitions via the soft Bellman error. Our experiments show that SQIL matches the state of the art in low-dimensional environments, and significantly outperforms prior work in playing video games from high-dimensional images.
  • Keywords: imitation learning, reinforcement learning
  • TL;DR: We propose a simple and effective imitation learning algorithm based on off-policy RL, which works well on image-based tasks and implicitly performs approximate inference of the expert policy.
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