L2Explorer: A Lifelong Reinforcement Learning Assessment Environment

Despite groundbreaking progress in reinforcement learning for robotics, gameplay, and other complex domains, major challenges remain in applying reinforcement learning to the evolving, open-world problems often found in critical application spaces. Reinforcement learning solutions tend to generalize poorly when exposed to new tasks outside of the data distribution they are trained on, prompting an interest in continual learning algorithms. In tandem with research on continual learning algorithms, there is a need for challenge environments, carefully designed experiments, and metrics to assess research progress. We address the latter need by introducing a framework for continual reinforcement-learning development and assessment using Lifelong Learning Explorer (L2Explorer), a new, Unity-based, first-person 3D exploration environment that can be continuously reconfigured to generate a range of tasks and task variants structured into complex and evolving evaluation curricula. In contrast to procedurally generated worlds with randomized components, we have developed a systematic approach to defining curricula in response to controlled changes with accompanying metrics to assess transfer, performance recovery, and data efficiency. Taken together, the L2Explorer environment and evaluation approach provides a framework for developing future evaluation methodologies in open-world settings and rigorously evaluating approaches to lifelong learning.

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