UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reinforcement learning in the presence of sensing costs Shann, Tzu-Yun Ariel


In recent years, reinforcement learning (RL) has become an increasingly popular framework for formalizing decision-making problems. Despite its popularity, the use of RL has remained relatively limited in challenging real-world scenarios, due to various unrealistic assumptions made about the environment, such as assuming sufficiently accurate models to train on in simulation, or no significant delays between the execution of an action and receiving the next observation. Such assumptions unavoidably make RL algorithms suffer from poor generalization. In this work, we aim to take a closer look at how incorporating realistic constraints impact the behaviour of RL agents. In particular, we consider the cost in time and energy of making observations and taking a decision, which is an important aspect of natural environments that is typically overlooked in a traditional RL setup. As a first attempt, we propose to explicitly incorporate the cost of sensing the environment into the RL training loop, and analyze the emerging behaviours of the agent on a suite of simulated gridworld environments.

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