Graphical Model Inference in Optimal Control of Stochastic Multi-Agent Systems

B. van den Broek, W. Wiegerinck, and B. Kappen

In this article we consider the issue of optimal control in collaborative multi-agent systems with stochastic dynamics. The agents have a joint task in which they have to reach a number of target states. The dynamics of the agents contains additive control and additive noise, and the autonomous part factorizes over the agents. Full observation of the global state is assumed. The goal is to minimize the accumulated joint cost, which consists of integrated instantaneous costs and a joint end cost. The joint end cost expresses the joint task of the agents. The instantaneous costs are quadratic in the control and factorize over the agents. The optimal control is given as a weighted linear combination of single-agent to single-target controls. The single-agent to single-target controls are expressed in terms of diffusion processes. These controls, when not closed form expressions, are formulated in terms of path integrals, which are calculated approximately by Metropolis-Hastings sampling. The weights in the control are interpreted as marginals of a joint distribution over agent to target assignments. The structure of the latter is represented by a graphical model, and the marginals are obtained by graphical model inference. Exact inference of the graphical model will break down in large systems, and so approximate inference methods are needed. We use naive mean field approximation and belief propagation to approximate the optimal control in systems with linear dynamics. We compare the approximate inference methods with the exact solution, and we show that they can accurately compute the optimal control. Finally, we demonstrate the control method in multi-agent systems with nonlinear dynamics consisting of up to 80 agents that have to reach an equal number of target states.


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