Using Natural Language to Aid Task Specification in Sequential Decision Making Problems (2021)
Intelligent agents that can help humans accomplish everyday tasks, such as a personal robot at home or a robot in a work environment, is a long-standing goal of artificial intelligence. One of the requirements for such general-purpose agents is the ability to teach them new tasks or skills relatively easily. Common approaches to teaching agents new skills include reinforcement learning (RL) and imitation learning (IL). However, specifying the task to the learning agent, i.e. designing effective reward functions for reinforcement learning and providing demonstrations for imitation learning, are often cumbersome and time-consuming. We aim to use natural language as an auxiliary signal to aid task specification, which reduces the burden on the end user. To make reward design easier, we propose a novel framework that is used to generate language-based rewards in addition to the extrinsic rewards from the environment for faster policy training using RL. To ameliorate the problem of providing demonstrations, we propose a new setting that enables an agent to learn a new task without demonstrations in an IL setting, given a demonstration from a related task and a natural language description of the difference between the desired task and the demonstrated task. The primary contributions of this dissertation will be new frameworks that enable incorporating natural language in RL and IL, which would enable non-expert users to specify new tasks to intelligent agents more conveniently.
Ph.D. Proposal.

Slides (PDF) Video
Prasoon Goyal Ph.D. Student pgoyal [at] cs utexas edu
Prasoon Goyal Ph.D. Student pgoyal [at] cs utexas edu