Research Post

Affordance as general value function: a computational model


General value functions (GVFs) in the reinforcement learning (RL) literature are long-term predictive summaries of the outcomes of agents following specific policies in the environment. Affordances as perceived action possibilities with specific valence may be cast into predicted policy-relative goodness and modeled as GVFs. A systematic explication of this connection shows that GVFs and especially their deep-learning embodiments (1) realize affordance prediction as a form of direct perception, (2) illuminate the fundamental connection between action and perception in affordance, and (3) offer a scalable way to learn affordances using RL methods. Through an extensive review of existing literature on GVF applications and representative affordance research in robotics, we demonstrate that GVFs provide the right framework for learning affordances in real-world applications. In addition, we highlight a few new avenues of research opened up by the perspective of “affordance as GVF,” including using GVFs for orchestrating complex behaviors.

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