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Technical Report

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Abstract or Description

The problem of efficient multirobot coordination has risen to the forefront of robotics research in recent years. Interest in this problem is motivated by the wide range of application domains demanding multirobot solutions. In general, multirobot coordination strategies assume either a centralized approach, where a single robot/agent plans for the group, or a distributed approach, where each robot is responsible for its own planning. Inherent to many centralized approaches are difficulties such as intractable solutions for large groups, sluggish response to changes in the local environment, heavy communication requirements, and brittle systems with single points of failure. The key advantage of centralized approaches is that they can produce globally optimal plans. While most distributed approaches can overcome the obstacles inherent to centralized approaches, they can only produce suboptimal plans.

This work explores the development of a market-based architecture that will be inherently distributed, but will also opportunistically form centralized sub-groups to improve efficiency, and thus approach optimality. Robots will be self-interested agents, with the primary goal of maximizing individual profits. The revenue/cost models and rules of engagement will be designed so that maximizing individual profit has the benevolent effect of moving the team toward the globally optimal solution. This architecture will inherit the flexibility of market-based approaches in allowing cooperation and competition to emerge opportunistically. The outlined approach will address the multirobot control problem for autonomous robotic colonies carrying out complex tasks in dynamic environments where it is highly desirable to optimize to whatever extent possible. Future work will develop the core components of a market-based multirobot control-architecture, investigate the use of a negotiation protocol for task distribution, design and implement resource and role management schemes, and apply optimization techniques to improve system performance. The automated robot colonies domain is targeted for implementation and evaluation of the architecture. Portability of the architecture to other application domains will also be illustrated.

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