The Communicative Multiagent Team Decision Problem: Analyzing Teamwork Theories and Models

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Despite the significant progress in multiagent teamwork, existing research does not address the optimality of its prescriptions nor the complexity of the teamwork problem. Without a characterization of the optimality-complexity tradeoffs, it is impossible to determine whether the assumptions and approximations made by a particular theory gain enough efficiency to justify the losses in overall performance. To provide a tool for use by multiagent researchers in evaluating this tradeoff, we present a unified framework, the COMmunicative Multiagent Team Decision Problem (COM-MTDP). The COM-MTDP model combines and extends existing multiagent theories, such as decentralized partially observable Markov decision processes and economic team theory. In addition to their generality of representation, COM-MTDPs also support the analysis of both the optimality of team performance and the computational complexity of the agents' decision problem. In analyzing complexity, we present a breakdown of the computational complexity of constructing optimal teams under various classes of problem domains, along the dimensions of observability and communication cost. In analyzing optimality, we exploit the COM-MTDP's ability to encode existing teamwork theories and models to encode two instantiations of joint intentions theory taken from the literature. Furthermore, the COM-MTDP model provides a basis for the development of novel team coordination algorithms. We derive a domain-independent criterion for optimal communication and provide a comparative analysis of the two joint intentions instantiations with respect to this optimal policy. We have implemented a reusable, domain-independent software package based on COM-MTDPs to analyze teamwork coordination strategies, and we demonstrate its use by encoding and evaluating the two joint intentions strategies within an example domain.

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