Paying Attention To What Matters Abstraction In Partially Observable Domains
Computer Science, Williams College
(UMass PhD 2010)
Autonomous agents may not have access to complete information about the state of the environment. For example, a robot soccer player may only be able to estimate the locations of other players not in the scope of its sensors. However, even though all the information needed for ideal decision making cannot be sensed, all that is sensed is usually not needed. The noise and motion of spectators, for example, can be ignored in order to focus on the game field. Standard formulations do not consider this situation, assuming that all the can be sensed must be included in any useful abstraction.
This dissertation extends the Markov Decision Process Homomorphism framework (Ravindran, 2004) to partially observable domains, focusing specifically on reducing Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDPs) when the model is known. This involves ignoring aspects of the observation function which are irrelevant to a particular task. Abstraction is particularly important in partially observable domains, as it enables the formation of a smaller domain model and thus more efficient use of the observed features.