Keywords: [ model-based RL ] [ deployment-efficiency ] [ offline RL ] [ reinforcement learning ]
Most reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms assume online access to the environment, in which one may readily interleave updates to the policy with experience collection using that policy. However, in many real-world applications such as health, education, dialogue agents, and robotics, the cost or potential risk of deploying a new data-collection policy is high, to the point that it can become prohibitive to update the data-collection policy more than a few times during learning. With this view, we propose a novel concept of deployment efficiency, measuring the number of distinct data-collection policies that are used during policy learning. We observe that naïvely applying existing model-free offline RL algorithms recursively does not lead to a practical deployment-efficient and sample-efficient algorithm. We propose a novel model-based algorithm, Behavior-Regularized Model-ENsemble (BREMEN), that not only performs better than or comparably as the state-of-the-art dynamic-programming-based and concurrently-proposed model-based offline approaches on existing benchmarks, but can also effectively optimize a policy offline using 10-20 times fewer data than prior works. Furthermore, the recursive application of BREMEN achieves impressive deployment efficiency while maintaining the same or better sample efficiency, learning successful policies from scratch on simulated robotic environments with only 5-10 deployments, compared to typical values of hundreds to millions in standard RL baselines.