First published: 2023/09/28 (just now) Abstract: Hierarchical reinforcement learning (HRL) is a promising approach to extend
traditional reinforcement learning (RL) methods to solve more complex tasks.
Yet, the majority of current HRL methods require careful task-specific design
and on-policy training, making them difficult to apply in real-world scenarios.
In this paper, we study how we can develop HRL algorithms that are general, in
that they do not make onerous additional assumptions beyond standard RL
algorithms, and efficient, in the sense that they can be used with modest
numbers of interaction samples, making them suitable for real-world problems
such as robotic control. For generality, we develop a scheme where lower-level
controllers are supervised with goals that are learned and proposed
automatically by the higher-level controllers. To address efficiency, we
propose to use off-policy experience for both higher and lower-level training.
This poses a considerable challenge, since changes to the lower-level behaviors
change the action space for the higher-level policy, and we introduce an
off-policy correction to remedy this challenge. This allows us to take
advantage of recent advances in off-policy model-free RL to learn both higher-
and lower-level policies using substantially fewer environment interactions
than on-policy algorithms. We term the resulting HRL agent HIRO and find that
it is generally applicable and highly sample-efficient. Our experiments show
that HIRO can be used to learn highly complex behaviors for simulated robots,
such as pushing objects and utilizing them to reach target locations, learning
from only a few million samples, equivalent to a few days of real-time
interaction. In comparisons with a number of prior HRL methods, we find that
our approach substantially outperforms previous state-of-the-art techniques.