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Online Learning for Unknown Partially Observable MDPs

Mehdi Jafarnia · Rahul Jain · Ashutosh Nayyar

Abstract: Solving Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDPs) is hard. Learning optimal controllers for POMDPs when the model is unknown is harder. Online learning of optimal controllers for unknown POMDPs, which requires efficient learning using regret-minimizing algorithms that effectively tradeoff exploration and exploitation, is even harder, and no solution exists currently. In this paper, we consider infinite-horizon average-cost POMDPs with unknown transition model, though a known observation model. We propose a natural posterior sampling-based reinforcement learning algorithm (PSRL-POMDP) and show that it achieves a regret bound of $O(\log T)$, where $T$ is the time horizon, when the parameter set is finite. In the general case (continuous parameter set), we show that the algorithm achieves $O(T^{2/3})$ regret under two technical assumptions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first online RL algorithm for POMDPs and has sub-linear regret.

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