Decoupled Exploration and Exploitation Policies for Sample-Efficient Reinforcement Learning

Despite the close connection between exploration and sample efficiency, most state of the art reinforcement learning algorithms include no considerations for exploration beyond maximizing the entropy of the policy. In this work we address this seeming missed opportunity... We observe that the most common formulation of directed exploration in deep RL, known as bonus-based exploration (BBE), suffers from bias and slow coverage in the few-sample regime. This causes BBE to be actively detrimental to policy learning in many control tasks. We show that by decoupling the task policy from the exploration policy, directed exploration can be highly effective for sample-efficient continuous control. Our method, Decoupled Exploration and Exploitation Policies (DEEP), can be combined with any off-policy RL algorithm without modification. When used in conjunction with soft actor-critic, DEEP incurs no performance penalty in densely-rewarding environments. On sparse environments, DEEP gives a several-fold improvement in data efficiency due to better exploration. read more

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