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Reinforcement Learning using Guided Observability

Stephan Weigand; Pascal Klink; Jan Peters; Joni Pajarinen
In: Computing Research Repository eprint Journal (CoRR), Vol. abs/2104.10986, Pages 0-10, arXiv, 2021.


Due to recent breakthroughs, reinforcement learning (RL) has demonstrated impressive performance in challenging sequential decision-making problems. However, an open question is how to make RL cope with partial observability which is prevalent in many real-world problems. Contrary to contemporary RL approaches, which focus mostly on improved memory representations or strong assumptions about the type of partial observability, we propose a simple but efficient approach that can be applied together with a wide variety of RL methods. Our main insight is that smoothly transitioning from full observability to partial observability during the training process yields a high performance policy. The approach, called partially observable guided reinforcement learning (PO-GRL), allows to utilize full state information during policy optimization without compromising the optimality of the final policy. A comprehensive evaluation in discrete partially observableMarkov decision process (POMDP) benchmark problems and continuous partially observable MuJoCo and OpenAI gym tasks shows that PO-GRL improves performance. Finally, we demonstrate PO-GRL in the ball-in-the-cup task on a real Barrett WAM robot under partial observability.

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