A Joint Imitation-Reinforcement Learning Framework for Reduced Baseline Regret

Sheelabhadra Dey, Sumedh Pendurkar, Guni Sharon, Josiah P. Hanna

In various control task domains, existing controllers provide a baseline level of performance that -- though possibly suboptimal -- should be maintained. Reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms that rely on extensive exploration of the state and action space can be used to optimize a control policy. However, fully exploratory RL algorithms may decrease performance below a baseline level during training. In this paper, we address the issue of online optimization of a control policy while minimizing regret w.r.t a baseline policy performance. We present a joint imitation-reinforcement learning framework, denoted JIRL. The learning process in JIRL assumes the availability of a baseline policy and is designed with two objectives in mind \textbf{(a)} leveraging the baseline's online demonstrations to minimize the regret w.r.t the baseline policy during training, and \textbf{(b)} eventually surpassing the baseline performance. JIRL addresses these objectives by initially learning to imitate the baseline policy and gradually shifting control from the baseline to an RL agent. Experimental results show that JIRL effectively accomplishes the aforementioned objectives in several, continuous action-space domains. The results demonstrate that JIRL is comparable to a state-of-the-art algorithm in its final performance while incurring significantly lower baseline regret during training in all of the presented domains. Moreover, the results show a reduction factor of up to $21$ in baseline regret over a state-of-the-art baseline regret minimization approach.

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