Path Integral Guided Policy Search

Yevgen Chebotar
Mrinal Kalakrishnan
Ali Yahya
Adrian Li
Stefan Schaal
Sergey Levine
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation(2017)


We present a policy search method for learning complex feedback control policies that map from high-dimensional sensory inputs to motor torques, for manipulation tasks with discontinuous contact dynamics. We build on a prior technique called guided policy search (GPS), which iteratively optimizes a set of local policies for specific instances of a task, and uses these to train a complex, high-dimensional global policy that generalizes across task instances. We extend GPS in the following ways: (1) we propose the use of a model-free local optimizer based on path integral stochastic optimal control (PI2), which enables us to learn local policies for tasks with highly discontinuous contact dynamics; and (2) we enable GPS to train on a new set of task instances in every iteration by using on-policy sampling: this increases the diversity of the instances that the policy is trained on, and is crucial for achieving good generalization. We show that these contributions enable us to learn deep neural network policies that can directly perform torque control from visual input. We validate the method on a challenging door opening task and a pick-and-place task, and we demonstrate that our approach substantially outperforms the prior LQR-based local policy optimizer on these tasks. Furthermore, we show that on-policy sampling significantly increases the generalization ability of these policies.