##### Copyright 2021 The TF-Agents Authors.

View on TensorFlow.org | Run in Google Colab | View source on GitHub | Download notebook |

## Introduction

This example shows how to train a Categorical DQN (C51) agent on the Cartpole environment using the TF-Agents library.

Make sure you take a look through the DQN tutorial as a prerequisite. This tutorial will assume familiarity with the DQN tutorial; it will mainly focus on the differences between DQN and C51.

## Setup

If you haven't installed tf-agents yet, run:

`sudo apt-get update`

`sudo apt-get install -y xvfb ffmpeg freeglut3-dev`

`pip install 'imageio==2.4.0'`

`pip install pyvirtualdisplay`

`pip install tf-agents`

`pip install pyglet`

```
from __future__ import absolute_import
from __future__ import division
from __future__ import print_function
import base64
import imageio
import IPython
import matplotlib
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import PIL.Image
import pyvirtualdisplay
import tensorflow as tf
from tf_agents.agents.categorical_dqn import categorical_dqn_agent
from tf_agents.drivers import dynamic_step_driver
from tf_agents.environments import suite_gym
from tf_agents.environments import tf_py_environment
from tf_agents.eval import metric_utils
from tf_agents.metrics import tf_metrics
from tf_agents.networks import categorical_q_network
from tf_agents.policies import random_tf_policy
from tf_agents.replay_buffers import tf_uniform_replay_buffer
from tf_agents.trajectories import trajectory
from tf_agents.utils import common
# Set up a virtual display for rendering OpenAI gym environments.
display = pyvirtualdisplay.Display(visible=0, size=(1400, 900)).start()
```

## Hyperparameters

```
env_name = "CartPole-v1" # @param {type:"string"}
num_iterations = 15000 # @param {type:"integer"}
initial_collect_steps = 1000 # @param {type:"integer"}
collect_steps_per_iteration = 1 # @param {type:"integer"}
replay_buffer_capacity = 100000 # @param {type:"integer"}
fc_layer_params = (100,)
batch_size = 64 # @param {type:"integer"}
learning_rate = 1e-3 # @param {type:"number"}
gamma = 0.99
log_interval = 200 # @param {type:"integer"}
num_atoms = 51 # @param {type:"integer"}
min_q_value = -20 # @param {type:"integer"}
max_q_value = 20 # @param {type:"integer"}
n_step_update = 2 # @param {type:"integer"}
num_eval_episodes = 10 # @param {type:"integer"}
eval_interval = 1000 # @param {type:"integer"}
```

## Environment

Load the environment as before, with one for training and one for evaluation. Here we use CartPole-v1 (vs. CartPole-v0 in the DQN tutorial), which has a larger max reward of 500 rather than 200.

```
train_py_env = suite_gym.load(env_name)
eval_py_env = suite_gym.load(env_name)
train_env = tf_py_environment.TFPyEnvironment(train_py_env)
eval_env = tf_py_environment.TFPyEnvironment(eval_py_env)
```

## Agent

C51 is a Q-learning algorithm based on DQN. Like DQN, it can be used on any environment with a discrete action space.

The main difference between C51 and DQN is that rather than simply predicting the Q-value for each state-action pair, C51 predicts a histogram model for the probability distribution of the Q-value:

By learning the distribution rather than simply the expected value, the algorithm is able to stay more stable during training, leading to improved final performance. This is particularly true in situations with bimodal or even multimodal value distributions, where a single average does not provide an accurate picture.

In order to train on probability distributions rather than on values, C51 must perform some complex distributional computations in order to calculate its loss function. But don't worry, all of this is taken care of for you in TF-Agents!

To create a C51 Agent, we first need to create a `CategoricalQNetwork`

. The API of the `CategoricalQNetwork`

is the same as that of the `QNetwork`

, except that there is an additional argument `num_atoms`

. This represents the number of support points in our probability distribution estimates. (The above image includes 10 support points, each represented by a vertical blue bar.) As you can tell from the name, the default number of atoms is 51.

```
categorical_q_net = categorical_q_network.CategoricalQNetwork(
train_env.observation_spec(),
train_env.action_spec(),
num_atoms=num_atoms,
fc_layer_params=fc_layer_params)
```

We also need an `optimizer`

to train the network we just created, and a `train_step_counter`

variable to keep track of how many times the network was updated.

Note that one other significant difference from vanilla `DqnAgent`

is that we now need to specify `min_q_value`

and `max_q_value`

as arguments. These specify the most extreme values of the support (in other words, the most extreme of the 51 atoms on either side). Make sure to choose these appropriately for your particular environment. Here we use -20 and 20.

```
optimizer = tf.compat.v1.train.AdamOptimizer(learning_rate=learning_rate)
train_step_counter = tf.Variable(0)
agent = categorical_dqn_agent.CategoricalDqnAgent(
train_env.time_step_spec(),
train_env.action_spec(),
categorical_q_network=categorical_q_net,
optimizer=optimizer,
min_q_value=min_q_value,
max_q_value=max_q_value,
n_step_update=n_step_update,
td_errors_loss_fn=common.element_wise_squared_loss,
gamma=gamma,
train_step_counter=train_step_counter)
agent.initialize()
```

One last thing to note is that we also added an argument to use n-step updates with $n$ = 2. In single-step Q-learning ($n$ = 1), we only compute the error between the Q-values at the current time step and the next time step using the single-step return (based on the Bellman optimality equation). The single-step return is defined as:

$G_t = R_{t + 1} + \gamma V(s_{t + 1})$

where we define $V(s) = \max_a{Q(s, a)}$.

N-step updates involve expanding the standard single-step return function $n$ times:

$G_t^n = R_{t + 1} + \gamma R_{t + 2} + \gamma^2 R_{t + 3} + \dots + \gamma^n V(s_{t + n})$

N-step updates enable the agent to bootstrap from further in the future, and with the right value of $n$, this often leads to faster learning.

Although C51 and n-step updates are often combined with prioritized replay to form the core of the Rainbow agent, we saw no measurable improvement from implementing prioritized replay. Moreover, we find that when combining our C51 agent with n-step updates alone, our agent performs as well as other Rainbow agents on the sample of Atari environments we've tested.

## Metrics and Evaluation

The most common metric used to evaluate a policy is the average return. The return is the sum of rewards obtained while running a policy in an environment for an episode, and we usually average this over a few episodes. We can compute the average return metric as follows.

```
def compute_avg_return(environment, policy, num_episodes=10):
total_return = 0.0
for _ in range(num_episodes):
time_step = environment.reset()
episode_return = 0.0
while not time_step.is_last():
action_step = policy.action(time_step)
time_step = environment.step(action_step.action)
episode_return += time_step.reward
total_return += episode_return
avg_return = total_return / num_episodes
return avg_return.numpy()[0]
random_policy = random_tf_policy.RandomTFPolicy(train_env.time_step_spec(),
train_env.action_spec())
compute_avg_return(eval_env, random_policy, num_eval_episodes)
# Please also see the metrics module for standard implementations of different
# metrics.
```

20.0

## Data Collection

As in the DQN tutorial, set up the replay buffer and the initial data collection with the random policy.

```
replay_buffer = tf_uniform_replay_buffer.TFUniformReplayBuffer(
data_spec=agent.collect_data_spec,
batch_size=train_env.batch_size,
max_length=replay_buffer_capacity)
def collect_step(environment, policy):
time_step = environment.current_time_step()
action_step = policy.action(time_step)
next_time_step = environment.step(action_step.action)
traj = trajectory.from_transition(time_step, action_step, next_time_step)
# Add trajectory to the replay buffer
replay_buffer.add_batch(traj)
for _ in range(initial_collect_steps):
collect_step(train_env, random_policy)
# This loop is so common in RL, that we provide standard implementations of
# these. For more details see the drivers module.
# Dataset generates trajectories with shape [BxTx...] where
# T = n_step_update + 1.
dataset = replay_buffer.as_dataset(
num_parallel_calls=3, sample_batch_size=batch_size,
num_steps=n_step_update + 1).prefetch(3)
iterator = iter(dataset)
```

WARNING:tensorflow:From /tmpfs/src/tf_docs_env/lib/python3.7/site-packages/tensorflow/python/data/experimental/ops/counter.py:66: scan (from tensorflow.python.data.experimental.ops.scan_ops) is deprecated and will be removed in a future version. Instructions for updating: Use `tf.data.Dataset.scan(...) instead WARNING:tensorflow:From /tmpfs/src/tf_docs_env/lib/python3.7/site-packages/tensorflow/python/autograph/impl/api.py:382: ReplayBuffer.get_next (from tf_agents.replay_buffers.replay_buffer) is deprecated and will be removed in a future version. Instructions for updating: Use `as_dataset(..., single_deterministic_pass=False) instead.

## Training the agent

The training loop involves both collecting data from the environment and optimizing the agent's networks. Along the way, we will occasionally evaluate the agent's policy to see how we are doing.

The following will take ~7 minutes to run.

```
try:
%%time
except:
pass
# (Optional) Optimize by wrapping some of the code in a graph using TF function.
agent.train = common.function(agent.train)
# Reset the train step
agent.train_step_counter.assign(0)
# Evaluate the agent's policy once before training.
avg_return = compute_avg_return(eval_env, agent.policy, num_eval_episodes)
returns = [avg_return]
for _ in range(num_iterations):
# Collect a few steps using collect_policy and save to the replay buffer.
for _ in range(collect_steps_per_iteration):
collect_step(train_env, agent.collect_policy)
# Sample a batch of data from the buffer and update the agent's network.
experience, unused_info = next(iterator)
train_loss = agent.train(experience)
step = agent.train_step_counter.numpy()
if step % log_interval == 0:
print('step = {0}: loss = {1}'.format(step, train_loss.loss))
if step % eval_interval == 0:
avg_return = compute_avg_return(eval_env, agent.policy, num_eval_episodes)
print('step = {0}: Average Return = {1:.2f}'.format(step, avg_return))
returns.append(avg_return)
```

WARNING:tensorflow:From /tmpfs/src/tf_docs_env/lib/python3.7/site-packages/tensorflow/python/util/dispatch.py:206: calling foldr_v2 (from tensorflow.python.ops.functional_ops) with back_prop=False is deprecated and will be removed in a future version. Instructions for updating: back_prop=False is deprecated. Consider using tf.stop_gradient instead. Instead of: results = tf.foldr(fn, elems, back_prop=False) Use: results = tf.nest.map_structure(tf.stop_gradient, tf.foldr(fn, elems)) step = 200: loss = 3.199000597000122 step = 400: loss = 2.083357810974121 step = 600: loss = 1.9901162385940552 step = 800: loss = 1.9055049419403076 step = 1000: loss = 1.7382612228393555 step = 1000: Average Return = 34.40 step = 1200: loss = 1.3624987602233887 step = 1400: loss = 1.548039197921753 step = 1600: loss = 1.4193217754364014 step = 1800: loss = 1.3339967727661133 step = 2000: loss = 1.1471226215362549 step = 2000: Average Return = 91.10 step = 2200: loss = 1.360352873802185 step = 2400: loss = 1.4253160953521729 step = 2600: loss = 0.9550995826721191 step = 2800: loss = 0.9822611808776855 step = 3000: loss = 1.0512573719024658 step = 3000: Average Return = 102.60 step = 3200: loss = 1.131516456604004 step = 3400: loss = 1.0834283828735352 step = 3600: loss = 0.8771724104881287 step = 3800: loss = 0.7854692935943604 step = 4000: loss = 0.7451740503311157 step = 4000: Average Return = 179.10 step = 4200: loss = 0.6963338851928711 step = 4400: loss = 0.8579068183898926 step = 4600: loss = 0.735978364944458 step = 4800: loss = 0.5723521709442139 step = 5000: loss = 0.6422518491744995 step = 5000: Average Return = 138.00 step = 5200: loss = 0.5242955684661865 step = 5400: loss = 0.869032621383667 step = 5600: loss = 0.7798122763633728 step = 5800: loss = 0.745892345905304 step = 6000: loss = 0.7540864944458008 step = 6000: Average Return = 155.80 step = 6200: loss = 0.6851651668548584 step = 6400: loss = 0.7417727112770081 step = 6600: loss = 0.7385923862457275 step = 6800: loss = 0.8823254108428955 step = 7000: loss = 0.6216408014297485 step = 7000: Average Return = 146.90 step = 7200: loss = 0.3905255198478699 step = 7400: loss = 0.5030156373977661 step = 7600: loss = 0.6326021552085876 step = 7800: loss = 0.6071780920028687 step = 8000: loss = 0.49069637060165405 step = 8000: Average Return = 332.70 step = 8200: loss = 0.7194125056266785 step = 8400: loss = 0.7707428932189941 step = 8600: loss = 0.42258384823799133 step = 8800: loss = 0.5215793251991272 step = 9000: loss = 0.6949542164802551 step = 9000: Average Return = 174.10 step = 9200: loss = 0.7312793731689453 step = 9400: loss = 0.5663323402404785 step = 9600: loss = 0.8518731594085693 step = 9800: loss = 0.5256152153015137 step = 10000: loss = 0.578148603439331 step = 10000: Average Return = 147.40 step = 10200: loss = 0.46965712308883667 step = 10400: loss = 0.5685954093933105 step = 10600: loss = 0.5819060802459717 step = 10800: loss = 0.792033851146698 step = 11000: loss = 0.5804982781410217 step = 11000: Average Return = 186.80 step = 11200: loss = 0.4973406195640564 step = 11400: loss = 0.33229681849479675 step = 11600: loss = 0.5267124176025391 step = 11800: loss = 0.585414469242096 step = 12000: loss = 0.6697092652320862 step = 12000: Average Return = 135.30 step = 12200: loss = 0.30732017755508423 step = 12400: loss = 0.490392804145813 step = 12600: loss = 0.28014713525772095 step = 12800: loss = 0.456543892621994 step = 13000: loss = 0.48237597942352295 step = 13000: Average Return = 182.70 step = 13200: loss = 0.5447070598602295 step = 13400: loss = 0.4602382481098175 step = 13600: loss = 0.5659506320953369 step = 13800: loss = 0.47906267642974854 step = 14000: loss = 0.4060840904712677 step = 14000: Average Return = 153.00 step = 14200: loss = 0.6457054018974304 step = 14400: loss = 0.4795544147491455 step = 14600: loss = 0.16895757615566254 step = 14800: loss = 0.5005109906196594 step = 15000: loss = 0.5339224338531494 step = 15000: Average Return = 165.10

## Visualization

### Plots

We can plot return vs global steps to see the performance of our agent. In `Cartpole-v1`

, the environment gives a reward of +1 for every time step the pole stays up, and since the maximum number of steps is 500, the maximum possible return is also 500.

```
steps = range(0, num_iterations + 1, eval_interval)
plt.plot(steps, returns)
plt.ylabel('Average Return')
plt.xlabel('Step')
plt.ylim(top=550)
```

(19.485000991821288, 550.0)

### Videos

It is helpful to visualize the performance of an agent by rendering the environment at each step. Before we do that, let us first create a function to embed videos in this colab.

```
def embed_mp4(filename):
"""Embeds an mp4 file in the notebook."""
video = open(filename,'rb').read()
b64 = base64.b64encode(video)
tag = '''
<video width="640" height="480" controls>
<source src="data:video/mp4;base64,{0}" type="video/mp4">
Your browser does not support the video tag.
</video>'''.format(b64.decode())
return IPython.display.HTML(tag)
```

The following code visualizes the agent's policy for a few episodes:

```
num_episodes = 3
video_filename = 'imageio.mp4'
with imageio.get_writer(video_filename, fps=60) as video:
for _ in range(num_episodes):
time_step = eval_env.reset()
video.append_data(eval_py_env.render())
while not time_step.is_last():
action_step = agent.policy.action(time_step)
time_step = eval_env.step(action_step.action)
video.append_data(eval_py_env.render())
embed_mp4(video_filename)
```

WARNING:root:IMAGEIO FFMPEG_WRITER WARNING: input image is not divisible by macro_block_size=16, resizing from (400, 600) to (400, 608) to ensure video compatibility with most codecs and players. To prevent resizing, make your input image divisible by the macro_block_size or set the macro_block_size to None (risking incompatibility). You may also see a FFMPEG warning concerning speedloss due to data not being aligned. [swscaler @ 0x5646eec183c0] Warning: data is not aligned! This can lead to a speed loss

C51 tends to do slightly better than DQN on CartPole-v1, but the difference between the two agents becomes more and more significant in increasingly complex environments. For example, on the full Atari 2600 benchmark, C51 demonstrates a mean score improvement of 126% over DQN after normalizing with respect to a random agent. Additional improvements can be gained by including n-step updates.

For a deeper dive into the C51 algorithm, see A Distributional Perspective on Reinforcement Learning (2017).