Learning in POMDPs is Sample-Efficient with Hindsight Observability

Jonathan Lee
Tong Zhang
ICML 2023(2023)

Abstract

POMDPs capture a broad class of decision making problems, but hardness results suggest that learning is intractable even in simple settings due to the inherent partial observability. However, in many realistic problems, more information is either revealed or can be computed during some point of the learning process. Motivated by diverse applications ranging from robotics to data center scheduling, we formulate a Hindsight Observable Markov Decision Process (HOMDP) as a POMDP where the latent states are revealed to the learner in hindsight and only during training. We introduce new algorithms for the tabular and function approximation settings that are provably sample-efficient with hindsight observability, even in POMDPs that would otherwise be statistically intractable. We give a lower bound showing that the tabular algorithm is optimal in its dependence on latent state and observation cardinalities.

Research Areas