Deep Reinforcement Learning with Smooth Policy

Part of Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning 1 pre-proceedings (ICML 2020)

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Qianli Shen, Yan Li, Haoming Jiang, Zhaoran Wang, Tuo Zhao


Deep neural networks have been widely adopted in modern reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms with great empirical successes in various domains. However, the large search space of training a neural network requires a significant amount of data, which makes the current RL algorithms not sample efficient. Motivated by the fact that many environments with continuous state space have smooth transitions, we propose to learn a smooth policy that behaves smoothly with respect to the state. In contrast to policy parameterized by linear/reproducing kernel functions, where simple regularization techniques suffice to control smoothness, for neural network based reinforcement learning algorithms, there is no readily available solution to learn a smooth policy. In this paper, we develop a new training framework --- \textbf{S}mooth \textbf{R}egularized \textbf{R}einforcement \textbf{L}earning ($\textbf{SR}^2\textbf{L}$), where the policy is trained with smoothness-inducing regularization. Such regularization effectively constrains the search space of the learning algorithms and enforces smoothness in the learned policy. We apply the proposed framework to both on-policy (TRPO) and off-policy algorithm (DDPG). Through extensive experiments, we demonstrate that our method achieves improved sample efficiency.