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Task Decomposition, Dynamic Role Assignment, and Low-Bandwidth Communication for Real-Time Strategic Teamwork

Peter Stone and Manuela Veloso
Computer Science Department
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
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To appear in Artificial Intelligence, 1999.


Multi-agent domains consisting of teams of agents that need to collaborate in an adversarial environment offer challenging research opportunities. In this article, we introduce periodic team synchronization (PTS) domains as time-critical environments in which agents act autonomously with low communication, but in which they can periodically synchronize in a full-communication setting. The two main contributions of this article are a flexible team agent structure and a method for inter-agent communication in domains with unreliable, single-channel, low-bandwidth communication. First, the novel team agent structure allows agents to capture and reason about team agreements. We achieve collaboration between agents through the introduction of formations. A formation decomposes the task space defining a set of roles. Homogeneous agents can flexibly switch roles within formations, and agents can change formations dynamically, according to pre-defined triggers to be evaluated at run-time. This flexibility increases the performance of the overall team. Our teamwork structure further includes pre-planning for frequent situations. Second, the novel communication method is designed for use during the low-communication periods in PTS domains. It overcomes the obstacles to inter-agent communication in multi-agent environments with unreliable, high-cost, low-bandwidth communication. We fully implemented both the flexible teamwork structure and the communication method in the domain of simulated robotic soccer, and conducted controlled empirical experiments to verify their effectiveness. In addition, our simulator team made it to the semi-finals of the RoboCup-97 competition, in which 29 teams participated. It achieved a total score of 67-9 over six different games, and successfully demonstrated its flexible teamwork structure and inter-agent communication.

Peter Stone
Thu Dec 17 15:26:44 EST 1998