Coordination without Communication: Experimental Validation of Focal Point Techniques

Maier Fenster, Sarit Kraus, and Jeffrey S. Rosenschein

Coordination is a central theme of distributed artificial intelligence. Much work in this field can be seen as a search for mechanisms that allow agents with differing knowledge and goals to coordinate their actions for mutual benefit. Additionally, one cornerstone assumption of the field is that communication is expensive relative to local computation. Thus, coordination techniques that minimize communication are of particular importance. This paper considers how automated agents could use a coordination technique common to communication-free human interactions, namely focal points. Given a problem and a set of possible solutions from which the agents need to choose one, focal points are prominent solutions of the problem to which agents are drawn. Theoretical work on this subject includes Schelling 1963, Kraus 1992. The purpose of the current research is to consider the practical use of focal point techniques in various domains. We present simulations over randomly generated domains; these simulations strongly suggest that focal points can act as an effective heuristic for coordination in real-world environments.

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