A fascinating aspect of nature lies in its ability to produce a large and diverse collection of organisms that are all high-performing in their niche. By contrast, most AI algorithms focus on finding a single efficient solution to a given problem. Aiming for diversity in addition to performance is a convenient way to deal with the exploration-exploitation trade-off that plays a central role in learning. It also allows for increased robustness when the returned collection contains several working solutions to the considered problem, making it well-suited for real applications such as robotics. Quality-Diversity (QD) methods are evolutionary algorithms designed for this purpose. This paper proposes a novel algorithm, qd-pg, which combines the strength of Policy Gradient algorithms and Quality Diversity approaches to produce a collection of diverse and high-performing neural policies in continuous control environments. The main contribution of this work is the introduction of a Diversity Policy Gradient (DPG) that exploits information at the time-step level to drive policies towards more diversity in a sample efficient manner. Specifically, qd-pg selects neural controllers from a map-elites grid and uses two gradient-based mutation operators to improve both quality and diversity. Our results demonstrate that qd-pg is significantly more sample-efficient than its evolutionary competitors.
The full paper can be accessed on arXiv.org.