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Proximal Distilled Evolutionary Reinforcement Learning

Published in AAAI 2020, 2019

Reinforcement Learning (RL) has achieved impressive performance in many complex environments due to the integration with Deep Neural Networks (DNNs). At the same time, Genetic Algorithms (GAs), often seen as a competing approach to RL, had limited success in scaling up to the DNNs required to solve challenging tasks. Contrary to this dichotomic view, in the physical world, evolution and learning are complementary processes that continuously interact. The recently proposed Evolutionary Reinforcement Learning (ERL) framework has demonstrated mutual benefits to performance when combining the two methods. However, ERL has not fully addressed the scalability problem of GAs. In this paper, we show that this problem is rooted in an unfortunate combination of a simple genetic encoding for DNNs and the use of traditional biologically-inspired variation operators. When applied to these encodings, the standard operators are destructive and cause catastrophic forgetting of the traits the networks acquired. We propose a novel algorithm called Proximal Distilled Evolutionary Reinforcement Learning (PDERL) that is characterised by a hierarchical integration between evolution and learning. The main innovation of PDERL is the use of learning-based variation operators that compensate for the simplicity of the genetic representation. Unlike traditional operators, our proposals meet the functional requirements of variation operators when applied on directly-encoded DNNs. We evaluate PDERL in five robot locomotion settings from the OpenAI gym. Our method outperforms ERL, as well as two state-of-the-art RL algorithms, PPO and TD3, in all tested environments.

Quantile QT-Opt for Risk-Aware Vision-Based Robotic Grasping

Published in arXiv, 2019

The distributional perspective on reinforcement learning (RL) has given rise to a series of successful Q-learning algorithms, resulting in state-of-the-art performance in arcade game environments. However, it has not yet been analyzed how these findings from a discrete setting translate to complex practical applications characterized by noisy, high dimensional and continuous state-action spaces. In this work, we propose Quantile QT-Opt (Q2-Opt), a distributional variant of the recently introduced distributed Q-learning algorithm for continuous domains, and examine its behaviour in a series of simulated and real vision-based robotic grasping tasks. The absence of an actor in Q2-Opt allows us to directly draw a parallel to the previous discrete experiments in the literature without the additional complexities induced by an actor-critic architecture. We demonstrate that Q2-Opt achieves a superior vision-based object grasping success rate, while also being more sample efficient. The distributional formulation also allows us to experiment with various risk-distortion metrics that give us an indication of how robots can concretely manage risk in practice using a Deep RL control policy. As an additional contribution, we perform experiments on offline datasets and compare them with the latest findings from discrete settings. Surprisingly, we find that there is a discrepancy between our results and the previous batch RL findings from the literature obtained on arcade game environments.

Deep Graph Mapper: Seeing Graphs through the Neural Lens

Published in arXiv, 2020

Recent advancements in graph representation learning have led to the emergence of condensed encodings that capture the main properties of a graph. However, even though these abstract representations are powerful for downstream tasks, they are not equally suitable for visualisation purposes. In this work, we merge Mapper, an algorithm from the field of Topological Data Analysis (TDA), with the expressive power of Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) to produce hierarchical, topologically-grounded visualisations of graphs. These visualisations do not only help discern the structure of complex graphs but also provide a means of understanding the models applied to them for solving various tasks. We further demonstrate the suitability of Mapper as a topological framework for graph pooling by mathematically proving an equivalence with Min-Cut and Diff Pool. Building upon this framework, we introduce a novel pooling algorithm based on PageRank, which obtains competitive results with state of the art methods on graph classification benchmarks.



Teaching experience 1

Undergraduate course, University 1, Department, 2014

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Teaching experience 2

Workshop, University 1, Department, 2015

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