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Revisiting Model-based Value Expansion

Daniel Palenicek; Michael Lutter; Jan Peters
In: Computing Research Repository eprint Journal (CoRR), Vol. abs/2203.14660, Pages 0-10, arXiv, 2022.


Model-based value expansion methods promise to improve the quality of value function targets and, thereby, the effectiveness of value function learning. However, to date, these methods are being outperformed by Dyna-style algorithms with conceptually simpler 1-step value function targets. This shows that in practice, the theoretical justification of value expansion does not seem to hold. We provide a thorough empirical study to shed light on the causes of failure of value expansion methods in practice which is believed to be the compounding model error. By leveraging GPU based physics simulators, we are able to efficiently use the true dynamics for analysis inside the model-based reinforcement learning loop. Performing extensive comparisons between true and learned dynamics sheds light into this black box. This paper provides a better understanding of the actual problems in value expansion. We provide future directions of research by empirically testing the maximum theoretical performance of current approaches.

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