Go-Explore with a guide: Speeding up search in sparse reward settings with goal-directed intrinsic rewardsDownload PDF

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22 Sept 2022, 12:31 (modified: 26 Oct 2022, 13:58)ICLR 2023 Conference Blind SubmissionReaders: Everyone
Keywords: reinforcement learning, intrinsic motivation, goal-directed rewards, hippocampal replay, hard-exploration, sparse rewards
TL;DR: Speeding up search in sparse reward settings with goal-directed intrinsic rewards
Abstract: Reinforcement Learning (RL) agents have traditionally been very sample-intensive to train, especially in environments with sparse rewards. Seeking inspiration from neuroscience experiments of rats learning the structure of a maze without needing extrinsic rewards, we seek to incorporate additional intrinsic rewards to guide behavior. We propose a potential-based goal-directed intrinsic reward (GDIR), which provides a reward signal regardless of whether the task is achieved, and ensures that learning can always take place. While GDIR may be similar to approaches such as reward shaping in incorporating goal-based rewards, we highlight that GDIR is innate to the agent and hence applicable across a wide range of environments without needing to rely on a properly shaped environment reward. We also note that GDIR is different from curiosity-based intrinsic motivation, which can diminish over time and lead to inefficient exploration. Go-Explore is a well-known state-of-the-art algorithm for sparse reward domains, and we demonstrate that by incorporating GDIR in the ``Go" and ``Explore" phases, we can improve Go-Explore's performance and enable it to learn faster across multiple environments, for both discrete (2D grid maze environments, Towers of Hanoi, Game of Nim) and continuous (Cart Pole and Mountain Car) state spaces. Furthermore, to consolidate learnt trajectories better, our method also incorporates a novel approach of hippocampal replay to update the values of GDIR and reset state visit and selection counts of states along the successful trajectory. As a benchmark, we also show that our proposed approaches learn significantly faster than traditional extrinsic-reward-based RL algorithms such as Proximal Policy Optimization, TD-learning, and Q-learning.
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