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OFFER: Off−Environment Reinforcement Learning

Kamil Ciosek and Shimon Whiteson


Policy gradient methods have been widely applied in reinforcement learning. For reasons of safety and cost, learning is often conducted using a simulator. However, learning in simulation does not traditionally utilise the opportunity to improve learning by adjusting certain environment variables – state features that are randomly determined by the environment in a physical setting but controllable in a simulator. Exploiting environment variables is crucial in domains containing significant rare events (SREs), e.g., unusual wind conditions that can crash a helicopter, which are rarely observed under random sampling but have a considerable impact on expected return. We propose off environment reinforcement learning (OFFER), which addresses such cases by simultaneously optimising the policy and a proposal distribution over environment variables. We prove that OFFER converges to a locally optimal policy and show experimentally that it learns better and faster than a policy gradient baseline.

Book Title
AAAI 2017: Proceedings of the Thirty−First AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence