Christopher Painter-Wakefield and Ronald Parr. Greedy Algorithms for Sparse Reinforcement Learning. International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML 2012). Full version Poster

Feature selection and regularization are becoming increasingly prominent tools in the efforts of the reinforcement learning (RL) community to expand the reach and applicability of RL. One approach to the problem of feature selection is to impose a sparsity-inducing form of regularization on the learning method. Recent work on L1 regularization has adapted techniques from the supervised learning literature for use with RL. Another approach that has received renewed attention in the supervised learning community is that of using a simple algorithm that greedily adds new features. Such algorithms have many of the good properties of the L1 regularization methods, while also being extremely efficient and, in some cases, allowing theoretical guarantees on recovery of the true form of a sparse target function from sampled data. This paper considers variants of orthogonal matching pursuit (OMP) applied to reinforcement learning. The resulting algorithms are analyzed and compared experimentally with existing L1 regularized approaches. We demonstrate that perhaps the most natural scenario in which one might hope to achieve sparse recovery fails; however, one variant, OMP-BRM, provides promising theoretical guarantees under certain assumptions on the feature dictionary. Another variant, OMP-TD, empirically outperforms prior methods both in approximation accuracy and efficiency on several benchmark problems.