Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)
David Lindner, Matteo Turchetta, Sebastian Tschiatschek, Kamil Ciosek, Andreas Krause
For many reinforcement learning (RL) applications, specifying a reward is difficult. In this paper, we consider an RL setting where the agent can obtain information about the reward only by querying an expert that can, for example, evaluate individual states or provide binary preferences over trajectories. From such expensive feedback, we aim to learn a model of the reward function that allows standard RL algorithms to achieve high expected return with as few expert queries as possible. For this purpose, we propose Information Directed Reward Learning (IDRL), which uses a Bayesian model of the reward function and selects queries that maximize the information gain about the difference in return between potentially optimal policies. In contrast to prior active reward learning methods designed for specific types of queries, IDRL naturally accommodates different query types. Moreover, by shifting the focus from reducing the reward approximation error to improving the policy induced by the reward model, it achieves similar or better performance with significantly fewer queries. We support our findings with extensive evaluations in multiple environments and with different types of queries.