Monthly Archives: March 2024

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Graph NNs in RL for improving sample efficiency

Feng Zhang, Chengbin Xuan, Hak-Keung Lam, An obstacle avoidance-specific reinforcement learning method based on fuzzy attention mechanism and heterogeneous graph neural networks, Engineering Applications of Artificial Intelligence, Volume 130, 2024 DOI: 10.1016/j.engappai.2023.107764.

Deep reinforcement learning (RL) is an advancing learning tool to handle robotics control problems. However, it typically suffers from sample efficiency and effectiveness. The emergence of Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) enables the integration of the RL and graph representation learning techniques. It realises outstanding training performance and transfer capability by forming controlling scenarios into the corresponding graph domain. Nevertheless, the existing approaches strongly depend on the artificial graph formation processes with intensive bias and cannot propagate messages discriminatively on explicit physical dependence, which leads to restricted flexibility, size transfer capability and suboptimal performance. This paper proposes a fuzzy attention mechanism-based heterogeneous graph neural network (FAM-HGNN) framework for resolving the control problem under the RL context. FAM emphasises the significant connections and weakening of the trivial connections in a fully connected graph, which mitigates the potential negative influence caused by the artificial graph formation process. HGNN obtains a higher level of relational inductive bias by conducting graph propagations on a masked graph. Experimental results show that our FAM-HGNN outperforms the multi-layer perceptron-based and the existing GNN-based RL approaches regarding training performance and size transfer capability. We also conducted an ablation study and sensitivity analysis to validate the efficacy of the proposed method further.

Using RL as a framework to study political issues

Lion Schulz, Rahul Bhui, Political reinforcement learners, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 28, Issue 3, 2024, Pages 210-222 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2023.12.001.

Politics can seem home to the most calculating and yet least rational elements of humanity. How might we systematically characterize this spectrum of political cognition? Here, we propose reinforcement learning (RL) as a unified framework to dissect the political mind. RL describes how agents algorithmically navigate complex and uncertain domains like politics. Through this computational lens, we outline three routes to political differences, stemming from variability in agents\u2019 conceptions of a problem, the cognitive operations applied to solve the problem, or the backdrop of information available from the environment. A computational vantage on maladies of the political mind offers enhanced precision in assessing their causes, consequences, and cures.

Object oriented paradigm to improve transfer learning in RL, i.e., a sort of symbolic abstraction mechanism

Ofir Marom, Benjamin Rosman, Transferable dynamics models for efficient object-oriented reinforcement learning, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Volume 174, 2024 DOI: 10.1016/j.artint.2024.104079.

The Reinforcement Learning (RL) framework offers a general paradigm for constructing autonomous agents that can make effective decisions when solving tasks. An important area of study within the field of RL is transfer learning, where an agent utilizes knowledge gained from solving previous tasks to solve a new task more efficiently. While the notion of transfer learning is conceptually appealing, in practice, not all RL representations are amenable to transfer learning. Moreover, much of the research on transfer learning in RL is purely empirical. Previous research has shown that object-oriented representations are suitable for the purposes of transfer learning with theoretical efficiency guarantees. Such representations leverage the notion of object classes to learn lifted rules that apply to grounded object instantiations. In this paper, we extend previous research on object-oriented representations and introduce two formalisms: the first is based on deictic predicates, and is used to learn a transferable transition dynamics model; the second is based on propositions, and is used to learn a transferable reward dynamics model. In addition, we extend previously introduced efficient learning algorithms for object-oriented representations to our proposed formalisms. Our frameworks are then combined into a single efficient algorithm that learns transferable transition and reward dynamics models across a domain of related tasks. We illustrate our proposed algorithm empirically on an extended version of the Taxi domain, as well as the more difficult Sokoban domain, showing the benefits of our approach with regards to efficient learning and transfer.

A review of state-of-the-art path planning methods applied to autonomous driving

Mohamed Reda, Ahmed Onsy, Amira Y. Haikal, Ali Ghanbari, Path planning algorithms in the autonomous driving system: A comprehensive review, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Volume 174, 2024 DOI: 10.1016/j.robot.2024.104630.

This comprehensive review focuses on the Autonomous Driving System (ADS), which aims to reduce human errors that are the reason for about 95% of car accidents. The ADS consists of six stages: sensors, perception, localization, assessment, path planning, and control. We explain the main state-of-the-art techniques used in each stage, analyzing 275 papers, with 162 specifically on path planning due to its complexity, NP-hard optimization nature, and pivotal role in ADS. This paper categorizes path planning techniques into three primary groups: traditional (graph-based, sampling-based, gradient-based, optimization-based, interpolation curve algorithms), machine and deep learning, and meta-heuristic optimization, detailing their advantages and drawbacks. Findings show that meta-heuristic optimization methods, representing 23% of our study, are preferred for being general problem solvers capable of handling complex problems. In addition, they have faster convergence and reduced risk of local minima. Machine and deep learning techniques, accounting for 25%, are favored for their learning capabilities and fast responses to known scenarios. The trend towards hybrid algorithms (27%) combines various methods, merging each algorithm’s benefits and overcoming the other’s drawbacks. Moreover, adaptive parameter tuning is crucial to enhance efficiency, applicability, and balancing the search capability. This review sheds light on the future of path planning in autonomous driving systems, helping to tackle current challenges and unlock the full capabilities of autonomous vehicles.

Integrating symbolic (common sense) reasoning and probabilistic planning (POMDPs) in robots

Shiqi Zhang, Piyush Khandelwal, Peter Stone, iCORPP: Interleaved commonsense reasoning and probabilistic planning on robots, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Volume 174, 2024 DOI: 10.1016/j.robot.2023.104613.

Robot sequential decision-making in the real world is a challenge because it requires the robots to simultaneously reason about the current world state and dynamics, while planning actions to accomplish complex tasks. On the one hand, declarative languages and reasoning algorithms support representing and reasoning with commonsense knowledge. But these algorithms are not good at planning actions toward maximizing cumulative reward over a long, unspecified horizon. On the other hand, probabilistic planning frameworks, such as Markov decision processes (MDPs) and partially observable MDPs (POMDPs), support planning to achieve long-term goals under uncertainty. But they are ill-equipped to represent or reason about knowledge that is not directly related to actions. In this article, we present an algorithm, called iCORPP, to simultaneously estimate the current world state, reason about world dynamics, and construct task-oriented controllers. In this process, robot decision-making problems are decomposed into two interdependent (smaller) subproblems that focus on reasoning to “understand the world” and planning to “achieve the goal” respectively. The developed algorithm has been implemented and evaluated both in simulation and on real robots using everyday service tasks, such as indoor navigation, and dialog management. Results show significant improvements in scalability, efficiency, and adaptiveness, compared to competitive baselines including handcrafted action policies.