The (Un)Surprising Effectiveness of Pre-Trained Vision Models for Control

International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML)


Recent years have seen the emergence of pretrained representations as a powerful abstraction for AI applications in computer vision, natural language, and speech. However, policy learning for control is still dominated by a tabularasa learning paradigm, with visuo-motor policies often trained from scratch using data from deployment environments. In this context, we revisit and study the role of pre-trained visual representations for control, and in particular representations trained on large-scale computer vision datasets. Through extensive empirical evaluation in diverse control domains (Habitat, DeepMind Control, Adroit, Franka Kitchen), we isolate and study the importance of different representation training methods, data augmentations, and feature hierarchies. Overall, we find that pre-trained visual representations can be competitive or even better than ground-truth state representations to train control policies. This is in spite of using only out-of-domain data from standard vision datasets, without any in-domain data from the deployment environments. Source code and more at

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