Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures - Towards Risk-Adaptive Coalition Formation

Max Rudolph, Sonia Chernova, Harish Ravichandar

International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2021.


Multi-robot task allocation (MRTA) problems involve optimizing the allocation of robots to tasks. MRTA problems are known to be challenging when tasks require multiple robots and the team is composed of heterogeneous robots. These challenges are further exacerbated when we need to account for uncertainties encountered in the real-world. In this work, we address coalition formation in heterogeneous multi-robot teams with uncertain capabilities. We specifically focus on tasks that require coalitions to collectively satisfy certain minimum requirements. Existing approaches to uncertainty-aware task allocation either maximize expected pay-off (risk-neutral approaches) or improve worst-case or near-worst-case outcomes (risk-averse approaches). Within the context of our problem, we demonstrate the inherent limitations of unilaterally ignoring or avoiding risk and show that these approaches can in fact reduce the probability of satisfying task requirements. Inspired by models that explain foraging behaviors in animals, we develop a risk-adaptive approach to task allocation. Our approach adaptively switches between risk-averse and risk-seeking behavior in order to maximize the probability of satisfying task requirements. Comprehensive numerical experiments conclusively demonstrate that our risk-adaptive approach outperforms risk-neutral and risk-averse approaches. We also demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach using a simulated multi-robot emergency response scenario.