Title: "Optimal Control via Combined Inference and Numerical Optimisation".
Abstract: Derivative based optimization methods are efficient at solving optimal control problems near local optima. However, their ability to converge halts when derivative information vanishes. The inference approach to optimal control does not have strict requirements on the objective landscape. However, sampling, the primary tool for solving such problems, tends to be much slower in computation time. We propose a new method that combines second order methods with inference. We utilise the Kullback Leibler (KL) control framework to formulate an inference problem that computes the optimal controls from an adaptive distribution approximating the solution of the second order method. Our method allows for combining simple convex and non convex cost functions. This simplifies the process of cost function design and leverages the strengths of both inference and second order optimization. We compare our method to Model Predictive Path Integral (MPPI) and iterative Linear Quadratic Regulator (iLQG), outperforming both in sample efficiency and quality on manipulation and obstacle avoidance tasks.