Reinforcement Learning using Kernel-Based Stochastic Factorization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24 (NIPS 2011)

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Andre Barreto, Doina Precup, Joelle Pineau


Kernel-based reinforcement-learning (KBRL) is a method for learning a decision policy from a set of sample transitions which stands out for its strong theoretical guarantees. However, the size of the approximator grows with the number of transitions, which makes the approach impractical for large problems. In this paper we introduce a novel algorithm to improve the scalability of KBRL. We resort to a special decomposition of a transition matrix, called stochastic factorization, to fix the size of the approximator while at the same time incorporating all the information contained in the data. The resulting algorithm, kernel-based stochastic factorization (KBSF), is much faster but still converges to a unique solution. We derive a theoretical upper bound for the distance between the value functions computed by KBRL and KBSF. The effectiveness of our method is illustrated with computational experiments on four reinforcement-learning problems, including a difficult task in which the goal is to learn a neurostimulation policy to suppress the occurrence of seizures in epileptic rat brains. We empirically demonstrate that the proposed approach is able to compress the information contained in KBRL's model. Also, on the tasks studied, KBSF outperforms two of the most prominent reinforcement-learning algorithms, namely least-squares policy iteration and fitted Q-iteration.