Tutorial on Auction-Based Agent Coordination at AAAI 2006 and AAMAS 2006


Teams of agents are more robust and potentially more efficient than single agents. However, coordinating teams of agents so that they can successfully complete their mission is a challenging task. This tutorial will cover one way of efficiently and effectively coordinating teams of agents, namely with auctions. Coordination involves the allocation and execution of individual tasks through an efficient (preferably decentralized) mechanism. The tutorial on "Auction-Based Agent Coordination" covers empirical, algorithmic, and theoretical aspects of auction-based methods for agent coordination, where agents bid on tasks and the tasks are then allocated to the agents by methods that resemble winner determination methods in auctions. Auction-based methods balance the trade-off between purely centralized coordination methods which require a central controller and purely decentralized coordination methods without any communication between agents, both in terms of communication efficiency, computation efficiency, and the quality of the solution.

The tutorial will use the coordination of a team of mobile robots as a running example. Robot teams are increasingly becoming a popular alternative to single robots for a variety of difficult tasks, such as planetary exploration or planetary base assembly. The tutorial covers auction-based agent coordination using examples of multi-robot routing tasks, a class of problems where a team of mobile robots must visit a given set of locations (for example, to deliver material at construction sites or acquire rock probes from Martian rocks) so that their routes are optimized based on certain criteria, for example, minimize the consumed energy, completion time, or average latency. Examples of multi-robot routing tasks include search-and-rescue in areas hit by disasters, surveillance, placement of sensors, material delivery, and localized measurements. We also discuss agent-coordination tasks from domains other than robotics. We give an overview of various auction-based methods for agent coordination, discuss their advantages and disadvantages and compare them to each other and other coordination methods. The tutorial also covers recent theoretical advances (including constant-factor performance guarantees) as well as experimental results and implementation issues.

Intended Audience

The tutorial makes no assumptions about the background of the audience, other than a very general understanding of algorithms, and should be of interest to all researchers who are interested in autonomous agents and multi-agent systems. Thus, the tutorial is appropriate undergraduate and graduate students as well as researchers and practitioners who are interested in learning more about how to coordinate teams of agents using auction-based mechanisms.


The speakers will be Gil Jones, Sven Koenig and Rob Zlot at AAMAS 2006; and Bernardine Dias, Gil Jones, Nidhi Kalra, Sven Koenig, Michail Lagoudakis and Robert Zlot at AAAI 2006. The presented material is provided by the researchers listed below and includes material by their co-workers A. Stentz, D. Kempe, A. Meyerson, V. Markakis, A. Kleywegt and C. Tovey. Special thanks go to Anthony Stentz, a research professor with the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University and the associate director of the National Robotics Engineering Consortium at Carnegie Mellon University, and Craig Tovey, a professor in Industrial and System Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Bernardine Dias (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

M. Bernardine Dias is research faculty at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research interests are in technology for developing communities, multirobot coordination, space robotics, and diversity in computer science. Her dissertation developed the TraderBots framework for market-based multirobot coordination and she has published extensively on a variety of topics in robotics. Bernardine will present at AAAI 2006.

E. Gil Jones (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

E. Gil Jones is a Ph.D. student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His primary interest is market-based multi-robot coordination. He received his BA in Computer Science from Swarthmore College in 2001, and spent two years as a software engineer at Bluefin Robotics in Cambridge, Mass. Gil will present at AAMAS 2006 and AAAI 2006.

Nidhi R. Kalra (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

Nidhi R. Kalra is a Ph.D. student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. She is interested in developing coordination strategies for robots working on complex real-world problems. To this end, she is developing the market-based Hoplites framework for tight multirobot coordination. Nidhi will present at AAAI 2006.

Pinar Keskinocak (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)

Pinar Keskinocak is an associate professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. She is interested in electronic commerce, routing and scheduling applications, production planning, multi-criteria decision making, approximation algorithms, and their application to a variety of problems. Pinar has published extensively in operation research.

Sven Koenig (University of Southern California, USA)

Sven Koenig is an associate professor at the University of Southern California. From 1995 to 1997, Sven demonstrated that it is possible to combine ideas from different decision-making disciplines by developing a robust mobile robot architecture based on POMDPs from operations research. Since then, he has published over 100 papers in robotics and artificial intelligence, continuing his interdisciplinary research. Sven will present at AAMAS 2006 and AAAI 2006.

Michail G. Lagoudakis (Technical University of Crete, Greece)

Michail G. Lagoudakis is an assistant professor at the Technical University of Crete. He is interested in machine learning (reinforcement learning), decision making under uncertainty, numeric artificial intelligence, as well as robots and other complex systems. He has published extensively in artificial intelligence and robotics. Michail will present at AAAI 2006.

Robert Zlot (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

Robert Zlot is a PhD student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned a Master's degree in Robotics in 2002. Robert's main interests are in multirobot coordination and space robotics. His current research focuses on market-based algorithms for tasks that exhibit complex structure. Robert will present at AAAI 2006.

Tutorial Material

Here are the tutorial slides:

Additional Information

Here are pointers to additional material:

For questions or requests for additional information, please send email to Sven Koenig (skoenig@usc.edu).

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