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Training Generalized Reinforcement Learning Agents

One of the challenges of training and testing agents on the same environment is that the agents tend to overfit. The result is that the agents are unable to generalize to any tweaks or variations in the environment. This is analogous to a model being trained and tested on an identical dataset in supervised learning. This becomes problematic in cases where environments are randomly instantiated with varying objects or properties.

To make agents robust and generalizable to different environments, the agent should be trained over multiple variations of the environment. Using this approach for training, the agent will be better suited to adapt (with higher performance) to future unseen variations of the environment

Example of variations of the 3D Ball environment.

Ball scale of 0.5 Ball scale of 4

Introducing Generalization Using Reset Parameters

To enable variations in the environments, we implemented Reset Parameters. We also included different sampling methods and the ability to create new kinds of sampling methods for each Reset Parameter. In the 3D ball environment example displayed in the figure above, the reset parameters are gravity, ball_mass and ball_scale.

How to Enable Generalization Using Reset Parameters

We first need to provide a way to modify the environment by supplying a set of Reset Parameters and vary them over time. This provision can be done either deterministically or randomly.

This is done by assigning each Reset Parameter a sampler-type(such as a uniform sampler), which determines how to sample a Reset Parameter. If a sampler-type isn't provided for a Reset Parameter, the parameter maintains the default value throughout the training procedure, remaining unchanged. The samplers for all the Reset Parameters are handled by a Sampler Manager, which also handles the generation of new values for the reset parameters when needed.

To setup the Sampler Manager, we create a YAML file that specifies how we wish to generate new samples for each Reset Parameters. In this file, we specify the samplers and the resampling-interval (the number of simulation steps after which reset parameters are resampled). Below is an example of a sampler file for the 3D ball environment.

resampling-interval: 5000

    sampler-type: "uniform"
    min_value: 0.5
    max_value: 10

    sampler-type: "multirange_uniform"
    intervals: [[7, 10], [15, 20]]

    sampler-type: "uniform"
    min_value: 0.75
    max_value: 3

Below is the explanation of the fields in the above example.

  • resampling-interval - Specifies the number of steps for the agent to train under a particular environment configuration before resetting the environment with a new sample of Reset Parameters.

  • Reset Parameter - Name of the Reset Parameter like mass, gravity and scale. This should match the name specified in the academy of the intended environment for which the agent is being trained. If a parameter specified in the file doesn't exist in the environment, then this parameter will be ignored. Within each Reset Parameter

    • sampler-type - Specify the sampler type to use for the Reset Parameter. This is a string that should exist in the Sampler Factory (explained below).

    • sampler-type-sub-arguments - Specify the sub-arguments depending on the sampler-type. In the example above, this would correspond to the intervals under the sampler-type "multirange_uniform" for the Reset Parameter called gravity`. The key name should match the name of the corresponding argument in the sampler definition. (See below)

The Sampler Manager allocates a sampler type for each Reset Parameter by using the Sampler Factory, which maintains a dictionary mapping of string keys to sampler objects. The available sampler types to be used for each Reset Parameter is available in the Sampler Factory.

Included Sampler Types

Below is a list of included sampler-type as part of the toolkit.

  • uniform - Uniform sampler

    • Uniformly samples a single float value between defined endpoints. The sub-arguments for this sampler to specify the interval endpoints are as below. The sampling is done in the range of [min_value, max_value).

    • sub-arguments - min_value, max_value

  • gaussian - Gaussian sampler

    • Samples a single float value from the distribution characterized by the mean and standard deviation. The sub-arguments to specify the gaussian distribution to use are as below.

    • sub-arguments - mean, st_dev

  • multirange_uniform - Multirange uniform sampler

    • Uniformly samples a single float value between the specified intervals. Samples by first performing a weight pick of an interval from the list of intervals (weighted based on interval width) and samples uniformly from the selected interval (half-closed interval, same as the uniform sampler). This sampler can take an arbitrary number of intervals in a list in the following format: [[interval_1_min, interval_1_max], [interval_2_min, interval_2_max], ...]

    • sub-arguments - intervals

The implementation of the samplers can be found at ml-agents-envs/mlagents/envs/

Defining a New Sampler Type

If you want to define your own sampler type, you must first inherit the Sampler base class (included in the sampler_class file) and preserve the interface. Once the class for the required method is specified, it must be registered in the Sampler Factory.

This can be done by subscribing to the register_sampler method of the SamplerFactory. The command is as follows:

SamplerFactory.register_sampler(*custom_sampler_string_key*, *custom_sampler_object*)

Once the Sampler Factory reflects the new register, the new sampler type can be used for sample any Reset Parameter. For example, lets say a new sampler type was implemented as below and we register the CustomSampler class with the string custom-sampler in the Sampler Factory.

class CustomSampler(Sampler):

    def __init__(self, argA, argB, argC):
        self.possible_vals = [argA, argB, argC]

    def sample_all(self):
        return np.random.choice(self.possible_vals)

Now we need to specify the new sampler type in the sampler YAML file. For example, we use this new sampler type for the Reset Parameter mass.

    sampler-type: "custom-sampler"
    argB: 1
    argA: 2
    argC: 3

Training with Generalization Using Reset Parameters

After the sampler YAML file is defined, we proceed by launching mlagents-learn and specify our configured sampler file with the --sampler flag. For example, if we wanted to train the 3D ball agent with generalization using Reset Parameters with config/3dball_generalize.yaml sampling setup, we would run

mlagents-learn config/trainer_config.yaml --sampler=config/3dball_generalize.yaml
--run-id=3D-Ball-generalization --train

We can observe progress and metrics via Tensorboard.

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