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Control-Aware Representations for Model-based Reinforcement Learning

Brandon Cui · Yinlam Chow · Mohammad Ghavamzadeh


A major challenge in modern reinforcement learning (RL) is efficient control of dynamical systems from high-dimensional sensory observations. Learning controllable embedding (LCE) is a promising approach that addresses this challenge by embedding the observations into a lower-dimensional latent space, estimating the latent dynamics, and utilizing it to perform control in the latent space. Two important questions in this area are how to learn a representation that is amenable to the control problem at hand, and how to achieve an end-to-end framework for representation learning and control. In this paper, we take a few steps towards addressing these questions. We first formulate a LCE model to learn representations that are suitable to be used by a policy iteration style algorithm in the latent space.We call this model control-aware representation learning(CARL). We derive a loss function and three implementations for CARL. In the offline implementation, we replace the locally-linear control algorithm (e.g., iLQR) used by the existing LCE methods with a RL algorithm, namely model-based soft actor-critic, and show that it results in significant improvement. In online CARL, we interleave representation learning and control, and demonstrate further gain in performance. Finally, we propose value-guided CARL, a variation in which we optimize a weighted version of the CARL loss function, where the weights depend on the TD-error of the current policy. We evaluate the proposed algorithms by extensive experiments on benchmark tasks and compare them with several LCE baselines.

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