Law, M. V., Li, Z., Rajesh, A., Dhawan, N., Kwatra, A., and Hoffman, G. (2021).
Hammers for Robots: Designing Tools for Reinforcement Learning Agents

In Proc. of the DIS '21: Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2021
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In this paper we explore what role humans might play in designing tools for reinforcement learning (RL) agents to interact with the world. Recent work has explored RL methods that optimize a robot’s morphology while learning to control it, effectively dividing an RL agent’s environment into the external world and the agent’s interface with the world. Taking a user-centered design (UCD) approach, we explore the potential of a human, instead of an algorithm, redesigning the agent’s tool. Using UCD to design for a machine learning agent brings up several research questions, including what it means to understand an RL agent’s experience, beliefs, tendencies, and goals. After discussing these questions, we then present a system we developed to study humans designing a 2D racecar for an RL autonomous driver. We conclude with findings and insights from exploratory pilots with twelve users using this system.