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Leave no Trace: Learning to Reset for Safe and Autonomous Reinforcement Learning

Benjamin Eysenbach
Shane Gu
Julian Ibarz
Sergey Levine
ICLR (2018)


Deep reinforcement learning algorithms can learn complex behavioral skills, but real-world application of these methods requires a considerable amount of experience to be collected by the agent. In practical settings, such as robotics, this involves repeatedly attempting a task, resetting the environment between each attempt. However, not all tasks are easily or automatically reversible. In practice, this learning process requires considerable human intervention. In this work, we propose an autonomous method for safe and efficient reinforcement learning that simultaneously learns a forward and backward policy, with the backward policy resetting the environment for a subsequent attempt. By learning a value function for the backward policy, we can automatically determine when the forward policy is about to enter a non-reversible state, providing for uncertainty-aware safety aborts. Our experiments illustrate that proper use of the backward policy can greatly reduce the number of manual resets required to learn a task and can reduce the number of unsafe actions that lead to non-reversible states.