Generating High-Quality Explanations for Navigation in Partially-Revealed Environments

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Gregory Stein


We present an approach for generating natural language explanations of high-level behavior of autonomous agents navigating in partially-revealed environments. Our counterfactual explanations communicate changes to interpratable statistics of the belief (e.g., the likelihood an exploratory action will reach the unseen goal) that are estimated from visual input via a deep neural network and used (via a Bellman equation variant) to inform planning far into the future. Additionally, our novel training procedure mimics explanation generation, allowing us to use planning performance as an objective measure of explanation quality. Simulated experiments validate that our explanations are both high quality and can be used in interventions to directly correct bad behavior; agents trained via our training-by-explaining procedure achieve 9.1% lower average cost than a non-learned baseline (12.7% after interventions) in environments derived from real-world floor plans.