Learning to Sample with Local and Global Contexts in Experience Replay Buffer

Experience replay, which enables the agents to remember and reuse experience from the past, has played a significant role in the success of off-policy reinforcement learning (RL). To utilize the experience replay efficiently, the existing sampling methods allow selecting out more meaningful experiences by imposing priorities on them based on certain metrics (e.g. TD-error). However, they may result in sampling highly biased, redundant transitions since they compute the sampling rate for each transition independently, without consideration of its importance in relation to other transitions. In this paper, we aim to address the issue by proposing a new learning-based sampling method that can compute the relative importance of transition. To this end, we design a novel permutation-equivariant neural architecture that takes contexts from not only features of each transition (local) but also those of others (global) as inputs. We validate our framework, which we refer to as Neural Experience Replay Sampler (NERS), on multiple benchmark tasks for both continuous and discrete control tasks and show that it can significantly improve the performance of various off-policy RL methods. Further analysis confirms that the improvements of the sample efficiency indeed are due to sampling diverse and meaningful transitions by NERS that considers both local and global contexts.

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