The Tea Time Talks 2020: Week Two

Now that the 2020 Tea Time Talks are on Youtube, you can always have time for tea with Amii and the RLAI Lab! Hosted by Amii’s Chief Scientific Advisory Dr. Richard S. Sutton, these 20-minute talks on technical topics are delivered by students, faculty and guests. The talks are a relaxed and informal way of hearing leaders in AI discuss future lines of research they may explore, with topics ranging from ideas starting to take root to fully-finished projects.

Week two of the Tea Time Talks features:

Roshan Shariff: Efficient Planning in Large MDPs with Weak Linear Function Approximation

In his talk, Roshan explains how to solve the planning problem in MDPs using linear value function approximation with only weak requirements: low approximation error for the optimal value function, and a small set of “core” states whose features span those of other states. He then introduces an algorithm that produces almost-optimal actions for any state using a generative oracle (simulator) for the MDP, while its computation time scales polynomially with the number of features, core states, and actions and the effective horizon.

Matt Taylor: Assisting RL with External Information: Can you Help an Agent Out?

When we think about deploying RL algorithms to real-world problems, we often can’t generate years worth of data with a simulator (e.g., OpenAI Five). What is an agent to do? Matt’s talk highlights some of the ways we can leverage existing data, existing agents, and people, to motivate why we should be thinking about helping our agent succeed as quickly as possible. 

Martin Müller: Some Old Ideas about Search and Learning

Researchers have been studying search and learning problems for decades. In his talk, Martin explores old ideas and questions around these topics, including scaling up and generalization. 

Watch the Tea Time Talks live online this year, Monday through Thursday from 4:15 – 4:45 p.m. MT. Each talk will be conducted here (please note that if you are accessing the chat from an email ID outside the domain of, you may have to wait a few seconds for someone inside the meeting to let you in). You can take a look at the full schedule to find talks that interest you, subscribe to the RLAI mailing list or catch up on previous talks on the Youtube playlist.