Cross-Trajectory Representation Learning for Zero-Shot Generalization in RL

Bogdan Mazoure · Ahmed Ahmed · R Devon Hjelm · Andrey Kolobov · Patrick MacAlpine

Keywords: [ reinforcement learning ] [ self-supervised learning ] [ representation learning ]

[ Abstract ]
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Tue 26 Apr 10:30 a.m. PDT — 12:30 p.m. PDT


A highly desirable property of a reinforcement learning (RL) agent -- and a major difficulty for deep RL approaches -- is the ability to generalize policies learned on a few tasks over a high-dimensional observation space to similar tasks not seen during training. Many promising approaches to this challenge consider RL as a process of training two functions simultaneously: a complex nonlinear encoder that maps high-dimensional observations to a latent representation space, and a simple linear policy over this space. We posit that a superior encoder for zero-shot generalization in RL can be trained by using solely an auxiliary SSL objective if the training process encourages the encoder to map behaviorally similar observations to similar representations, as reward-based signal can cause overfitting in the encoder (Raileanu et al., 2021). We propose Cross-Trajectory Representation Learning (CTRL), a method that runs within an RL agent and conditions its encoder to recognize behavioral similarity in observations by applying a novel SSL objective to pairs of trajectories from the agent's policies. CTRL can be viewed as having the same effect as inducing a pseudo-bisimulation metric but, crucially, avoids the use of rewards and associated overfitting risks. Our experiments ablate various components of CTRL and demonstrate that in combination with PPO it achieves better generalization performance on the challenging Procgen benchmark suite (Cobbe et al., 2020).

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