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Learning with Language-Guided State Abstractions

Andi Peng · Ilia Sucholutsky · Belinda Li · Theodore Sumers · Thomas L. Griffiths · Jacob Andreas · Julie Shah

Halle B #67
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Tue 7 May 1:45 a.m. PDT — 3:45 a.m. PDT


We describe a framework for using natural language to design state abstractions for imitation learning.Generalizable policy learning in high-dimensional observation spaces is facilitated by well-designed state representations, which can surface important features of an environment and hide irrelevant ones.These state representations are typically manually specified, or derived from other labor-intensive labeling procedures.Our method, LGA (\textit{language-guided abstraction}), uses a combination of natural language supervision and background knowledge from language models (LMs) to automatically build state representations tailored to unseen tasks.In LGA, a user first provides a (possibly incomplete) description of a target task in natural language; next, a pre-trained LM translates this task description into a state abstraction function that masks out irrelevant features; finally, an imitation policy is trained using a small number of demonstrations and LGA-generated abstract states. Experiments on simulated robotic tasks show that LGA yields state abstractions similar to those designed by humans, but in a fraction of the time, and that these abstractions improve generalization and robustness in the presence of spurious correlations and ambiguous specifications.We illustrate the utility of the learned abstractions on mobile manipulation tasks with a Spot robot.

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