Combining Model-based and Model-free RL via Multi-step Control Variates


Nov 07, 2017 (modified: Nov 07, 2017) ICLR 2018 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Model-free deep reinforcement learning algorithms are able to successfully solve a wide range of continuous control tasks, but typically require many on-policy samples to achieve good performance. Model-based RL algorithms are sample-efficient on the other hand, while learning accurate global models of complex dynamic environments has turned out to be tricky in practice, which leads to the unsatisfactory performance of the learned policies. In this work, we combine the sample-efficiency of model-based algorithms and the accuracy of model-free algorithms. We leverage multi-step neural network based predictive models by embedding real trajectories into imaginary rollouts of the model, and use the imaginary cumulative rewards as control variates for model-free algorithms. In this way, we achieved the strengths of both sides and derived an estimator which is not only sample-efficient, but also unbiased and of very low variance. We present our evaluation on the MuJoCo and OpenAI Gym benchmarks.