- TL;DR: Combining model free soft Q learning and information theoretic model predictive control for efficient learning in robotics problems
- Abstract: Model-free Reinforcement Learning (RL) algorithms work well in sequential decision-making problems when experience can be collected cheaply and model-based RL is effective when system dynamics can be modeled accurately. However, both of these assumptions can be violated in real world problems such as robotics, where querying the system can be prohibitively expensive and real-world dynamics can be difficult to model accurately. Although sim-to-real approaches such as domain randomization attempt to mitigate the effects of biased simulation, they can still suffer from optimization challenges such as local minima and hand-designed distributions for randomization, making it difficult to learn an accurate global value function or policy that directly transfers to the real world. In contrast to RL, Model Predictive Control (MPC) algorithms use a simulator to optimize a simple policy class online, constructing a closed-loop controller that can effectively contend with real-world dynamics. MPC performance is usually limited by factors such as model bias and the limited horizon of optimization. In this work, we present a novel theoretical connection between information theoretic MPC and entropy regularized RL and develop a Q-learning algorithm that can leverage biased models. We validate the proposed algorithm on sim-to-sim control tasks to demonstrate the improvements over optimal control and reinforcement learning from scratch. Our approach paves the way for deploying reinforcement learning algorithms on real-robots in a systematic manner.
- Keywords: entropy regularized reinforcement learning, information theoretic MPC, robotics