Blind Spot Detection for Safe Sim-to-Real Transfer

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Ramya Ramakrishnan
Ece Kamar
Debadeepta Dey
Eric Horvitz
Julie Shah


Agents trained in simulation may make errors when performing actions in the real world due to mismatches between training and execution environments. These mistakes can be dangerous and difficult for the agent to discover because the agent is unable to predict them a priori. In this work, we propose the use of oracle feedback to learn a predictive model of these blind spots in order to reduce costly errors in real-world applications. We focus on blind spots in reinforcement learning (RL) that occur due to incomplete state representation: when the agent lacks necessary features to represent the true state of the world, and thus cannot distinguish between numerous states. We formalize the problem of discovering blind spots in RL as a noisy supervised learning problem with class imbalance. Our system learns models for predicting blind spots within unseen regions of the state space by combining techniques for label aggregation, calibration, and supervised learning. These models take into consideration noise emerging from different forms of oracle feedback, including demonstrations and corrections.

We evaluate our approach across two domains and demonstrate that it achieves higher predictive performance than baseline methods, and also that the learned model can be used to selectively query an oracle at execution time to prevent errors. We also empirically analyze the biases of various feedback types and how these biases influence the discovery of blind spots. Further, we include analyses of our approach that incorporate relaxed initial optimality assumptions. (Interestingly, relaxing the assumptions of an optimal oracle and an optimal simulator policy helped our models to perform better.) We also propose extensions to our method that are intended to improve performance when using corrections and demonstrations data.

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