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Get started with data collection and storage

Author: Vincent Moens

Note

To run this tutorial in a notebook, add an installation cell at the beginning containing:

!pip install tensordict
!pip install torchrl

There is no learning without data. In supervised learning, users are accustomed to using DataLoader and the like to integrate data in their training loop. Dataloaders are iterable objects that provide you with the data that you will be using to train your model.

TorchRL approaches the problem of dataloading in a similar manner, although it is surprisingly unique in the ecosystem of RL libraries. TorchRL’s dataloaders are referred to as DataCollectors. Most of the time, data collection does not stop at the collection of raw data, as the data needs to be stored temporarily in a buffer (or equivalent structure for on-policy sota-implementations) before being consumed by the loss module. This tutorial will explore these two classes.

Data collectors

The primary data collector discussed here is the SyncDataCollector, which is the focus of this documentation. At a fundamental level, a collector is a straightforward class responsible for executing your policy within the environment, resetting the environment when necessary, and providing batches of a predefined size. Unlike the rollout() method demonstrated in the env tutorial, collectors do not reset between consecutive batches of data. Consequently, two successive batches of data may contain elements from the same trajectory.

The basic arguments you need to pass to your collector are the size of the batches you want to collect (frames_per_batch), the length (possibly infinite) of the iterator, the policy and the environment. For simplicity, we will use a dummy, random policy in this example.

import torch

torch.manual_seed(0)

from torchrl.collectors import SyncDataCollector
from torchrl.envs import GymEnv
from torchrl.envs.utils import RandomPolicy

env = GymEnv("CartPole-v1")
env.set_seed(0)

policy = RandomPolicy(env.action_spec)
collector = SyncDataCollector(env, policy, frames_per_batch=200, total_frames=-1)
/pytorch/rl/torchrl/envs/common.py:2989: DeprecationWarning: Your wrapper was not given a device. Currently, this value will default to 'cpu'. From v0.5 it will default to `None`. With a device of None, no device casting is performed and the resulting tensordicts are deviceless. Please set your device accordingly.
  warnings.warn(

We now expect that our collector will deliver batches of size 200 no matter what happens during collection. In other words, we may have multiple trajectories in this batch! The total_frames indicates how long the collector should be. A value of -1 will produce a never ending collector.

Let’s iterate over the collector to get a sense of what this data looks like:

for data in collector:
    print(data)
    break
TensorDict(
    fields={
        action: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 2]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.int64, is_shared=False),
        collector: TensorDict(
            fields={
                traj_ids: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.int64, is_shared=False)},
            batch_size=torch.Size([200]),
            device=None,
            is_shared=False),
        done: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False),
        next: TensorDict(
            fields={
                done: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False),
                observation: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 4]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.float32, is_shared=False),
                reward: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.float32, is_shared=False),
                terminated: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False),
                truncated: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False)},
            batch_size=torch.Size([200]),
            device=None,
            is_shared=False),
        observation: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 4]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.float32, is_shared=False),
        terminated: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False),
        truncated: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([200, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False)},
    batch_size=torch.Size([200]),
    device=None,
    is_shared=False)

As you can see, our data is augmented with some collector-specific metadata grouped in a "collector" sub-tensordict that we did not see during environment rollouts. This is useful to keep track of the trajectory ids. In the following list, each item marks the trajectory number the corresponding transition belongs to:

print(data["collector", "traj_ids"])
tensor([0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2,
        2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3,
        3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4,
        4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4,
        4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5,
        5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6,
        6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7,
        7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9,
        9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9])

Data collectors are very useful when it comes to coding state-of-the-art sota-implementations, as performance is usually measured by the capability of a specific technique to solve a problem in a given number of interactions with the environment (the total_frames argument in the collector). For this reason, most training loops in our examples look like this:

>>> for data in collector:
...     # your algorithm here

Replay Buffers

Now that we have explored how to collect data, we would like to know how to store it. In RL, the typical setting is that the data is collected, stored temporarily and cleared after a little while given some heuristic: first-in first-out or other. A typical pseudo-code would look like this:

>>> for data in collector:
...     storage.store(data)
...     for i in range(n_optim):
...         sample = storage.sample()
...         loss_val = loss_fn(sample)
...         loss_val.backward()
...         optim.step() # etc

The parent class that stores the data in TorchRL is referred to as ReplayBuffer. TorchRL’s replay buffers are composable: you can edit the storage type, their sampling technique, the writing heuristic or the transforms applied to them. We will leave the fancy stuff for a dedicated in-depth tutorial. The generic replay buffer only needs to know what storage it has to use. In general, we recommend a TensorStorage subclass, which will work fine in most cases. We’ll be using LazyMemmapStorage in this tutorial, which enjoys two nice properties: first, being “lazy”, you don’t need to explicitly tell it what your data looks like in advance. Second, it uses MemoryMappedTensor as a backend to save your data on disk in an efficient way. The only thing you need to know is how big you want your buffer to be.

from torchrl.data.replay_buffers import LazyMemmapStorage, ReplayBuffer

buffer = ReplayBuffer(storage=LazyMemmapStorage(max_size=1000))

Populating the buffer can be done via the add() (single element) or extend() (multiple elements) methods. Using the data we just collected, we initialize and populate the buffer in one go:

indices = buffer.extend(data)

We can check that the buffer now has the same number of elements than what we got from the collector:

assert len(buffer) == collector.frames_per_batch

The only thing left to know is how to gather data from the buffer. Naturally, this relies on the sample() method. Because we did not specify that sampling had to be done without repetitions, it is not guaranteed that the samples gathered from our buffer will be unique:

sample = buffer.sample(batch_size=30)
print(sample)
TensorDict(
    fields={
        action: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 2]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.int64, is_shared=False),
        collector: TensorDict(
            fields={
                traj_ids: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.int64, is_shared=False)},
            batch_size=torch.Size([30]),
            device=cpu,
            is_shared=False),
        done: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False),
        next: TensorDict(
            fields={
                done: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False),
                observation: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 4]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.float32, is_shared=False),
                reward: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.float32, is_shared=False),
                terminated: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False),
                truncated: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False)},
            batch_size=torch.Size([30]),
            device=cpu,
            is_shared=False),
        observation: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 4]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.float32, is_shared=False),
        terminated: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False),
        truncated: Tensor(shape=torch.Size([30, 1]), device=cpu, dtype=torch.bool, is_shared=False)},
    batch_size=torch.Size([30]),
    device=cpu,
    is_shared=False)

Again, our sample looks exactly the same as the data we gathered from the collector!

Next steps

  • You can have look at other multirpocessed collectors such as MultiSyncDataCollector or MultiaSyncDataCollector.

  • TorchRL also offers distributed collectors if you have multiple nodes to use for inference. Check them out in the API reference.

  • Check the dedicated Replay Buffer tutorial to know more about the options you have when building a buffer, or the API reference which covers all the features in details. Replay buffers have countless features such as multithreaded sampling, prioritized experience replay, and many more…

  • We left out the capacity of replay buffers to be iterated over for simplicity. Try it out for yourself: build a buffer and indicate its batch-size in the constructor, then try to iterate over it. This is equivalent to calling rb.sample() within a loop!

Total running time of the script: (0 minutes 18.965 seconds)

Estimated memory usage: 27 MB

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