Reinforcement Learning with Latent Flow

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

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Wenling Shang, Xiaofei Wang, Aravind Srinivas, Aravind Rajeswaran, Yang Gao, Pieter Abbeel, Misha Laskin


Temporal information is essential to learning effective policies with Reinforcement Learning (RL). However, current state-of-the-art RL algorithms either assume that such information is given as part of the state space or, when learning from pixels, use the simple heuristic of frame-stacking to implicitly capture temporal information present in the image observations. This heuristic is in contrast to the current paradigm in video classification architectures, which utilize explicit encodings of temporal information through methods such as optical flow and two-stream architectures to achieve state-of-the-art performance. Inspired by leading video classification architectures, we introduce the Flow of Latents for Reinforcement Learning (Flare), a network architecture for RL that explicitly encodes temporal information through latent vector differences. We show that Flare recovers optimal performance in state-based RL without explicit access to the state velocity, solely with positional state information. Flare is the most sample efficient model-free pixel-based RL algorithm on the DeepMind Control suite when evaluated on the 500k and 1M step benchmarks across 5 challenging control tasks, and, when used with Rainbow DQN, outperforms the competitive baseline on Atari games at 100M time step benchmark across 8 challenging games.