What makes some POMDP problems easy to approximate?

David Hsu, Wee Sun Lee, Nan Rong
2007 Neural Information Processing Systems  
Point-based algorithms have been surprisingly successful in computing approximately optimal solutions for partially observable Markov decision processes (POMDPs) in high dimensional belief spaces. In this work, we seek to understand the belief-space properties that allow some POMDP problems to be approximated efficiently and thus help to explain the point-based algorithms' success often observed in the experiments. We show that an approximately optimal POMDP solution can be computed in time
more » ... nomial in the covering number of a reachable belief space, which is the subset of the belief space reachable from a given belief point. We also show that under the weaker condition of having a small covering number for an optimal reachable space, which is the subset of the belief space reachable under an optimal policy, computing an approximately optimal solution is NP-hard. However, given a suitable set of points that "cover" an optimal reachable space well, an approximate solution can be computed in polynomial time. The covering number highlights several interesting properties that reduce the complexity of POMDP planning in practice, e.g., fully observed state variables, beliefs with sparse support, smooth beliefs, and circulant state-transition matrices.
dblp:conf/nips/HsuLR07 fatcat:dmb72crfpvfaxc6alkcq2c5esm