L. Busoniu, D. Ernst, B. De Schutter, and R. Babuska, "Cross-entropy optimization of control policies with adaptive basis functions," IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part B: Cybernetics, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 196-209, Feb. 2011.
This paper introduces an algorithm for direct search of control policies in continuous-state, discrete-action Markov decision processes. The algorithm looks for the best closed-loop policy that can be represented using a given number of basis functions (BFs), where a discrete action is assigned to each BF. The type of the BFs and their number are specified in advance and determine the complexity of the representation. Considerable flexibility is achieved by optimizing the locations and shapes of the BFs, together with the action assignments. The optimization is carried out with the cross-entropy method and evaluates the policies by their empirical return from a representative set of initial states. The return for each representative state is estimated using Monte Carlo simulations. The resulting algorithm for cross-entropy policy search with adaptive BFs is extensively evaluated in problems with two to six state variables, for which it reliably obtains good policies with only a small number of BFs. In these experiments, cross-entropy policy search requires vastly fewer BFs than value-function techniques with equidistant BFs, and outperforms policy search with a competing optimization algorithm called DIRECT.