Learning to Shape Rewards using a Game of Switching Controls

03/16/2021 ∙ by David Mguni, et al. ∙ 4

Reward shaping (RS) is a powerful method in reinforcement learning (RL) for overcoming the problem of sparse and uninformative rewards. However, RS relies on manually engineered shaping-reward functions whose construction is typically time-consuming and error-prone. It also requires domain knowledge which runs contrary to the goal of autonomous learning. In this paper, we introduce an automated RS framework in which the shaping-reward function is constructed in a novel stochastic game between two agents. One agent learns both which states to add shaping rewards and their optimal magnitudes and the other agent learns the optimal policy for the task using the shaped rewards. We prove theoretically that our framework, which easily adopts existing RL algorithms, learns to construct a shaping-reward function that is tailored to the task and ensures convergence to higher performing policies for the given task. We demonstrate the superior performance of our method against state-of-the-art RS algorithms in Cartpole and the challenging console games Gravitar, Solaris and Super Mario.

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