Solving Interleaved and Blended Sequential Decision-Making Problems through Modular Neuroevolution (2015)
Many challenging sequential decision-making problems require agents to master multiple tasks, such as defense and offense in many games. Learning algorithms thus benefit from having separate policies for these tasks, and from knowing when each one is appropriate. How well the methods work depends on the nature of the tasks: Interleaved tasks are disjoint and have different semantics, whereas blended tasks have regions where semantics from different tasks overlap. While many methods work well in interleaved tasks, blended tasks are difficult for methods with strict, human-specified task divisions, such as Multitask Learning. In such problems, task divisions should be discovered automatically. To demonstrate the power of this approach, the MM-NEAT neuroevolution framework is applied in this paper to two variants of the challenging video game of Ms. Pac-Man. In the simplified interleaved version of the game, the results demonstrate when and why such machine-discovered task divisions are useful. In the standard blended version of the game, a surprising, highly effective machine-discovered task division surpasses human-specified divisions, achieving the best scores to date in this game. Modular neuroevolution is thus a promising technique for discovering multimodal behavior for challenging real-world tasks.

[ Winner of the GECCO-2015 Best Paper Award in Digital Entertainment and Arts ]
[ An expanded version of this article appears in ECJ ]
In Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO 2015), 345--352, Madrid, Spain, July 2015. Best Paper: Digital Entertainment and Arts.

Risto Miikkulainen Faculty risto [at] cs utexas edu
Jacob Schrum Ph.D. Alumni schrum2 [at] southwestern edu
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Modular Multiobjective NEAT is a software f...