Structured Exploration via Hierarchical Variational Policy Networks

Stephan Zheng, Yisong Yue

Feb 15, 2018 (modified: Feb 15, 2018) ICLR 2018 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Reinforcement learning in environments with large state-action spaces is challenging, as exploration can be highly inefficient. Even if the dynamics are simple, the optimal policy can be combinatorially hard to discover. In this work, we propose a hierarchical approach to structured exploration to improve the sample efficiency of on-policy exploration in large state-action spaces. The key idea is to model a stochastic policy as a hierarchical latent variable model, which can learn low-dimensional structure in the state-action space, and to define exploration by sampling from the low-dimensional latent space. This approach enables lower sample complexity, while preserving policy expressivity. In order to make learning tractable, we derive a joint learning and exploration strategy by combining hierarchical variational inference with actor-critic learning. The benefits of our learning approach are that 1) it is principled, 2) simple to implement, 3) easily scalable to settings with many actions and 4) easily composable with existing deep learning approaches. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach on learning a deep centralized multi-agent policy, as multi-agent environments naturally have an exponentially large state-action space. In this setting, the latent hierarchy implements a form of multi-agent coordination during exploration and execution (MACE). We demonstrate empirically that MACE can more efficiently learn optimal policies in challenging multi-agent games with a large number (~20) of agents, compared to conventional baselines. Moreover, we show that our hierarchical structure leads to meaningful agent coordination.
  • TL;DR: Make deep reinforcement learning in large state-action spaces more efficient using structured exploration with deep hierarchical policies.
  • Keywords: Deep Reinforcement Learning, Structured Variational Inference, Multi-agent Coordination, Multi-agent Learning