Data-Efficient Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning

Ofir Nachum and Shixiang Gu and Honglak Lee and Sergey Levine

arXiv e-Print archive - 2018 via Local arXiv

Keywords: cs.LG, cs.AI, stat.ML

**First published:** 2021/09/27 (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.
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Ofir Nachum and Shixiang Gu and Honglak Lee and Sergey Levine

arXiv e-Print archive - 2018 via Local arXiv

Keywords: cs.LG, cs.AI, stat.ML

[link]
# Keypoints - Proposes the HIerarchical Reinforcement learning with Off-policy correction (**HIRO**) algorithm. - Does not require careful task-specific design. - Generic goal representation to make it broadly applicable, without any manual design of goal spaces, primitives, or controllable dimensions. - Use of off-policy experience using a novel off-policy correction. - A two-level hierarchy architecture - A higher-level controller outputs a goal for the lower-level controller every **c** time steps and collects the rewards given by the environment, being the goal the desired change in state space - The lower level controller has the goal given added to its input and acts directly in the environment, the reward received is parametrized from the current state and the goal. # Background This paper adopts a standard continuous control reinforcement learning setting, in which an agent acts on an environment that yields a next state and a reward from unknown functions. This paper utilizes the TD3 learning algorithm. ## General and Efficient Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning https://i.imgur.com/zAHoWWO.png ## Hierarchy of Two Policies The higher-level policy $\mu^{hi}$ outputs a goal $g_t$, which correspond directly to desired relative changes in state that the lower-level policy $\mu^{lo}$ attempts to reach. $\mu^{hi}$ operates at a time abstraction, updating the goal $g_t$ and collecting the environment rewards $R_t$ every $c$ environment steps, the higher-level transition $(s_{t:t+c−1},g_{t:t+c−1},a_{t:t+c−1},R_{t:t+c−1},s_{t+c})$ is stored for off-policy training. The lower-level policy $\mu^{lo}$ outputs an action to be applied directly to the environment, having as input the current environment observations $s_t$ and the goal $g_t$. The goal $g_t$ is given by $\mu^{hi}$ every $c$ environment time steps, for the steps in between, the goal $g_t$ used by $\mu^{lo}$ is given by the transition function $g_t=h(s_{t−1},g_{t−1},s_t)$, the lower-level controller reward is provided by the parametrized reward function $r_t=r(s_t,g_t,a_t,s_{t+1})$. The lower-level transition $(s_t,g_t,a_t,r_t,s_{t+1}, g_{t+1})$ is stored for off-policy training. ## Parameterized Rewards The goal $g_t$ indicates a desired relative changes in state observations, the lower-level agent task is to take actions from state $s_t$ that yield it an observation $s_{t+c}$ that is close to $s_t+g_t$. To maintain the same absolute position of the goal regardless of state change, the goal transition model, used between $\mu^{hi}$ updates every $c$ steps, is defined as: $h(s_t,g_t,s_{t+1}) =s_t+g_t−s_{t+1}$ And the reward given to the lower-level controller is defined as to reinforce reaching a state closer to the goal $g_t$, this paper parametrizes it by the function: $r(s_t,g_t,a_t,s_{t+1}) =−||s_t+g_t−s_{t+1}||_2$. ## Off-Policy Corrections for Higher-Level Training The higher-level transitions stored $(s_{t:t+c−1},g_{t:t+c−1},a_{t:t+c−1},R_{t:t+c−1},s_{t+c})$ have to be converted to state-action-reward transitions $(s_t,g_t,∑R_{t:t+c−1},s_{t+c})$ as they can be used in standard off-policy RL algorithms, however, since the lower-level controller is evolving, these past transitions do not accurately represent the actions tha would be taken by the current lower-level policy and must be corrected. This paper correction technique used is to change the goal $g_t$ of past transitions using an out of date lower-level controller to a relabeled goal $g ̃_t$ which is likely to induce the same lower-level behavior with the updated $\mu^{lo}$. In other words, we want to find a goal $g ̃_t$ which maximizes the probability $μ_{lo}(a_{t:t+c−1}|s_{t:t+c−1},g ̃_{t:t+c−1})$, in which the $\mu^{lo}$ is the current policy and the actions $a_{t:t+c−1}$ and states $s_{t:t+c−1}$ are from the stored high level transition. To approximately maximize this quantity in practice, the authors calculated the probability for 10 candidates $g ̃_t$, eight candidate goals sampled randomly from a Gaussian centered at $s_{t+c}−s_t$, the original goal $g_t$ and a goal corresponding to the difference $s_{t+c}−s_t$. # Experiments https://i.imgur.com/iko9nCd.png https://i.imgur.com/kGx8fZv.png The authors compared the $HIRO$ method to prior method in 4 different environments: - Ant Gather; - Ant Maze; - Ant Push; - Ant Fall. They also performed an ablative analysis with the following variants: - With lower-level re-labeling; - With pre-training; - No off-policy correction; - No HRL. # Closing Points - The method proposed is interesting in the hierarchical reinforcement learning setting for not needing a specific design, the generic goal representation enables applicability without the need of designing a goal space manually; - The off-policy correction method enables this algorithm to be sample efficient; - The hierarchical structure with intermediate goals on state-space enables to better visualize the agent goals; - The paper Appendix elaborates on possible alternative off-policy corrections. |

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