Unexpected consequences of training smarthome systems with reinforcement learning: effects on human behaviours

S. Suman, A. Etemad and F. Rivest, TPotential Impacts of Smart Homes on Human Behavior: A Reinforcement Learning Approach, IEEE Transactions on Artificial Intelligence, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 567-580, Aug. 2022 DOI: 10.1109/TAI.2021.3127483.

Smart homes are becoming increasingly popular as a result of advances in machine learning and cloud computing. Devices, such as smart thermostats and speakers, are now capable of learning from user feedback and adaptively adjust their settings to human preferences. Nonetheless, these devices might in turn impact human behavior. To investigate the potential impacts of smart homes on human behavior, we simulate a series of hierarchical-reinforcement learning-based human models capable of performing various activities\u2014namely, setting temperature and humidity for thermal comfort inside a Q-Learning-based smart home model. We then investigate the possibility of the human models\u2019 behaviors being altered as a result of the smart home and the human model adapting to one another. For our human model, the activities are based on hierarchical-reinforcement learning. This allows the human to learn how long it must continue a given activity and decide when to leave it. We then integrate our human model in the environment along with the smart home model and perform rigorous experiments considering various scenarios involving a model of a single human and models of two different humans with the smart home. Our experiments show that with the smart home, the human model can exhibit unexpected behaviors such as frequent changing of activities and an increase in the time required to modify the thermal preferences. With two human models, we interestingly observe that certain combinations of models result in normal behaviors, while other combinations exhibit the same unexpected behaviors as those observed from the single human experiment.

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