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Journal Article  August 3, 2019

Bridging the Gap: Converting Human Advice into Imagined Examples

SRI Authors Karen Myers, Melinda Gervasio



E. Yeh, M. Gervasio, D. Sanchez, M. Crossley, and K. Myers. Bridging the Gap: Converting Human Advice into Imagined Examples. Advances in Cognitive Systems, Vol. 7, 2018.


Advice is a powerful tool for learning. But advice also presents the challenge of bridging the gap between the high-level representations that easily capture human advice and the low-level representations that systems must operate with using that advice. Drawing inspiration from studies on human motor skills and memory systems, we present an approach that converts human advice into synthetic or imagined training experiences, serving to scaffold the low-level representations of simple, reactive learning systems such as reinforcement learners. Research on using mental imagery and directed attention in motor and perceptual skills motivates our approach. We introduce the concept of a cognitive advice template for generating scripted, synthetic experiences and use saliency masking to further conceal irrelevant portions of training observations. We present experimental results for a deep reinforcement learning agent in a Minecraft-based game environment that show how such synthetic experiences improve performance, enabling the agent to achieve faster learning and higher rates of success.

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