Infer to Control

Workshop on Probabilistic Reinforcement Learning and Structured Control

NeurIPS 2018

Saturday, December 8

Room 516 CDE

Palais des Congrès de Montréal, Canada

Videos of the workshop are available here!


Generously sponsored by Intel, Google Research, and DeepMind

Reinforcement learning and imitation learning are effective paradigms for learning controllers of dynamical systems from experience. These fields have been empowered by recent success in deep learning of differentiable parametric models, allowing end-to-end training of highly nonlinear controllers that encompass perception, memory, prediction, and decision making. The aptitude of these models to represent latent dynamics, high-level goals, and long-term outcomes is unfortunately curbed by the poor sample complexity of many current algorithms for learning these models from experience.

Probabilistic reinforcement learning and inference of control structure are emerging as promising approaches for avoiding prohibitive amounts of controller–system interactions. These methods leverage informative priors on useful behavior, as well as controller structure such as hierarchy and modularity, as useful inductive biases that reduce the effective size of policy search space and shape the optimization landscape. Intrinsic and self-supervised signals can further guide the training process of distinct internal components — such as perceptual embeddings, predictive models, exploration policies, and inter-agent communication — to break down the hard holistic problem of control into more efficiently learnable parts.

Effective inference methods are crucial for probabilistic approaches to reinforcement learning and structured control. Approximate control and model-free reinforcement learning exploit latent system structure and priors on policy structure, that are not directly evident in the controller–system interactions, and must be inferred by the learning algorithm. The growing interest of the reinforcement learning and optimal control community in the application of inference methods is synchronized well with the development by the probabilistic learning community of powerful inference techniques, such as probabilistic programming, variational inference, Gaussian processes, and nonparametric regression.

This workshop is a venue for the inference and reinforcement learning communities to come together in discussing recent advances, developing insights, and future potential in inference methods and their application to probabilistic reinforcement learning and structured control. The goal of this workshop is to catalyze tighter collaboration within and between the communities, that will be leveraged in upcoming years to rise to the challenges of real-world control problems.