Evolution of a Teamwork Model


Nathan Schurr, Steven Okamoto, Rajiv T. Maheswaran, Paul Scerri, and Milind Tambe. 2004. “Evolution of a Teamwork Model .” In Cognition and Multi-Agent Interaction: From Cognitive Modeling to Social Simulation. Cambridge University Press.


For heterogeneous agents working together to achieve complex goals, teamwork (Jennings, 1995; Yen, Yin, Ioerger, Miller, Xu, & Volz, 2001; Tambe, 1997a) has emerged as the dominant coordination paradigm. For domains as diverse as rescue response, military, space, sports and collaboration between human workmates, flexible, dynamic coordination between cooperative agents needs to be achieved despite complex, uncertain, and hostile environments. There is now emerging consensus in the multiagent arena that for flexible teamwork among agents, each team member is provided with an explicit model of teamwork, which entails their commitments and responsibilities as a team member. This explicit modelling allows the coordination to be robust, despite individual failures and unpredictably changing environments. Building on the well developed theory of joint intentions (Cohen & Levesque, 1991) and shared plans (Grosz & Kraus, 1996), the STEAM teamwork model (Tambe, 1997a) was operationalized as a set of domain independent rules that describe how teams should work together. This domain independent teamwork model has been successfully applied to a variety of domains. From combat air missions (Hill, Chen, Gratch, Rosenbloom, & Tambe, 1997) to robot soccer (Kitano, Asada, Kuniyoshi, Noda, Osawa, & Matsubara, 1997) to teams supporting human organizations (Pynadath & Tambe, 2003) to rescue response (Scerri, Pynadath, Johnson, P., Schurr, Si, & Tambe, 2003), applying the same set of STEAM rules has resulted in successful coordination between heterogeneous agents. The successful use of the same teamwork model in a wide variety of diverse domains provides compelling evidence that it is the principles of teamwork, rather than exploitation of specific domain phenomena, that underlies the success of teamwork based approaches. Since the same rules can be successfully used in a range of domains, it is desirable to build a reusable software package that encapsulates those rules in order to provide a lightweight and portable implementation. The emerging standard for deploying such a package is via proxies (Pynadath & Tambe, 2003). Each proxy works closely with a single domain agent, representing that agent in the team. The second generation of teamwork proxies, called Machinetta (Pynadath & Tambe, 2003; Scerri et al., 2003), is currently being developed. The Machinetta proxies use less computing resources and are more flexible than the proxies they have superseded. While approaches to teamwork have been shown to be effective for agent teams, new emerging domains of teamwork require agent-human interactions in teams. These emerging domains and the teams that are being developed for them introduce a new set of issues and obstacles. Two algorithms that need to be revised in particular for these complex domains are the algorithms for adjustable autonomy (for agent-human interaction) and algorithms for role allocation. This chapter focuses in particular on the challenge of role allocation. Upon instantiation of a new plan, the roles needed to perform that plan are created and must be allocated to members of the team. In order to allocate a dynamically changing set of roles to team members, previous mechanisms required too much computation and/or communication and did not handle rapidly changing situations well for teams with many members. A novel algorithm has been created for role allocation in these extreme teams. Generally in teamwork, role allocation is the problem of assigning roles to agents so as to maximize overall team utility (Nair, Ito, Tambe, & Marsella, 2002; Tidhar, Rao, & Sonenberg, 1996; Werger & Mataric, 2000). Extreme teams emphasize key additional properties in role allocation: (i) domain dynamics may cause tasks to disappear; (ii) agents may perform one or more roles, but within resource limits; (iii) many agents can fulfill the same role. This role allocation challenge in extreme teams will be referred to as extended GAP (E-GAP), as it subsumes the generalized assignment problem (GAP), which is NP-complete (Shmoys & Tardos, 1993).
See also: 2004