Publications

Sort by: [year] [type] [author]

What does Shaping Mean for Computational Reinforcement Learning?

Tom Erez and William D. Smart.
In "Proceedings of the 7th IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning (ICDL 2008)", pages 215-219, 2008.

This paper considers the role of shaping in applications of reinforcement learning, and proposes a formulation of shaping as a homotopy-continuation method. By considering reinforcement learning tasks as elements in an abstracted task space, we conceptualize shaping as a trajectory in task space, leading from simple tasks to harder ones. The solution of earlier, simpler tasks serves to initialize and facilitate the solution of later, harder tasks. We list the different ways reinforcement learning tasks may be modified, and review cases where continuation methods were employed (most of which were originally presented outside the context of shaping).

We contrast our proposed view with previous work on computational shaping, and argue against the often-held view that equates shaping with a rich reward scheme. We conclude by discussing a proposed research agenda for the computational study of shaping in the context of reinforcement learning.

Paper: [PDF]

@inproceedings{icdl08,
  author = {Erez, Tom and Smart, William D.},
  title = {What does Shaping Mean for Computational Reinforcement Learning?},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the 7th IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning ({ICDL 2008})},
  pages = {215--219},
  year = {2008}
}