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A Survey on Policy Search for Robotics

Marc Peter Deisenroth; Gerhard Neumann; Jan Peters
In: Foundations and Trends in Robotics, Vol. 2, No. 1-2, Pages 1-142, Now Publishers, 8/2013.


Policy search is a subfield in reinforcement learning which focuses on finding good parameters for a given policy parametrization. It is well suited for robotics as it can cope with high-dimensional state and action spaces, one of the main challenges in robot learning. We review recent successes of both model-free and model-based policy search in robot learning. Model-free policy search is a general approach to learn policies based on sampled trajectories. We classify model-free methods based on their policy evaluation strategy, policy update strategy, and exploration strategy and present a unified view on existing algorithms. Learning a policy is often easier than learning an accurate forward model, and, hence, model-free methods are more frequently used in practice. However, for each sampled trajectory, it is necessary to interact with the robot, which can be time consuming and challenging in practice. Model-based policy search addresses this problem by first learning a simulator of the robot's dynamics from data. Subsequently, the simulator generates trajectories that are used for policy learning. For both model-free and model-based policy search methods, we review their respective properties and their applicability to robotic systems.

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