Model-free deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms have been demonstrated on a range of challenging decision making and control tasks. However, these methods typically suffer from two major challenges: very high sample complexity and brittle convergence properties, which necessitate meticulous hyperparameter tuning. Both of these challenges severely limit the applicability of such methods to complex, real-world domains. In this paper, we propose soft actor-critic, an off-policy actor-critic deep RL algorithm based on the maximum entropy reinforcement learning framework. In this framework, the actor aims to maximize expected reward while also maximizing entropy. That is, to succeed at the task while acting as randomly as possible. Prior deep RL methods based on this framework have been formulated as Q-learning methods. By combining off-policy updates with a stable stochastic actor-critic formulation, our method achieves state-of-the-art performance on a range of continuous control benchmark tasks, outperforming prior on-policy and off-policy methods. Furthermore, we demonstrate that, in contrast to other off-policy algorithms, our approach is very stable, achieving very similar performance across different random seeds.

* ICML 2018 Videos: sites.google.com/view/soft-actor-critic Code: github.com/haarnoja/sac
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Deep reinforcement learning suggests the promise of fully automated learning of robotic control policies that directly map sensory inputs to low-level actions. However, applying deep reinforcement learning methods on real-world robots is exceptionally difficult, due both to the sample complexity and, just as importantly, the sensitivity of such methods to hyperparameters. While hyperparameter tuning can be performed in parallel in simulated domains, it is usually impractical to tune hyperparameters directly on real-world robotic platforms, especially legged platforms like quadrupedal robots that can be damaged through extensive trial-and-error learning. In this paper, we develop a stable variant of the soft actor-critic deep reinforcement learning algorithm that requires minimal hyperparameter tuning, while also requiring only a modest number of trials to learn multilayer neural network policies. This algorithm is based on the framework of maximum entropy reinforcement learning, and automatically trades off exploration against exploitation by dynamically and automatically tuning a temperature parameter that determines the stochasticity of the policy. We show that this method achieves state-of-the-art performance on four standard benchmark environments. We then demonstrate that it can be used to learn quadrupedal locomotion gaits on a real-world Minitaur robot, learning to walk from scratch directly in the real world in two hours of training.

* Videos: https://sites.google.com/view/minitaur-locomotion/ . arXiv admin note: substantial text overlap with arXiv:1812.05905
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Model-free deep reinforcement learning has been shown to exhibit good performance in domains ranging from video games to simulated robotic manipulation and locomotion. However, model-free methods are known to perform poorly when the interaction time with the environment is limited, as is the case for most real-world robotic tasks. In this paper, we study how maximum entropy policies trained using soft Q-learning can be applied to real-world robotic manipulation. The application of this method to real-world manipulation is facilitated by two important features of soft Q-learning. First, soft Q-learning can learn multimodal exploration strategies by learning policies represented by expressive energy-based models. Second, we show that policies learned with soft Q-learning can be composed to create new policies, and that the optimality of the resulting policy can be bounded in terms of the divergence between the composed policies. This compositionality provides an especially valuable tool for real-world manipulation, where constructing new policies by composing existing skills can provide a large gain in efficiency over training from scratch. Our experimental evaluation demonstrates that soft Q-learning is substantially more sample efficient than prior model-free deep reinforcement learning methods, and that compositionality can be performed for both simulated and real-world tasks.

* Videos: https://sites.google.com/view/composing-real-world-policies/
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Model-free deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms have been successfully applied to a range of challenging sequential decision making and control tasks. However, these methods typically suffer from two major challenges: high sample complexity and brittleness to hyperparameters. Both of these challenges limit the applicability of such methods to real-world domains. In this paper, we describe Soft Actor-Critic (SAC), our recently introduced off-policy actor-critic algorithm based on the maximum entropy RL framework. In this framework, the actor aims to simultaneously maximize expected return and entropy. That is, to succeed at the task while acting as randomly as possible. We extend SAC to incorporate a number of modifications that accelerate training and improve stability with respect to the hyperparameters, including a constrained formulation that automatically tunes the temperature hyperparameter. We systematically evaluate SAC on a range of benchmark tasks, as well as real-world challenging tasks such as locomotion for a quadrupedal robot and robotic manipulation with a dexterous hand. With these improvements, SAC achieves state-of-the-art performance, outperforming prior on-policy and off-policy methods in sample-efficiency and asymptotic performance. Furthermore, we demonstrate that, in contrast to other off-policy algorithms, our approach is very stable, achieving similar performance across different random seeds. These results suggest that SAC is a promising candidate for learning in real-world robotics tasks.

* arXiv admin note: substantial text overlap with arXiv:1801.01290
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