Off-Policy Evaluation of the Performance of a Robot Swarm: Importance Sampling to Assess Potential Modifications to the Finite-State Machine That Controls the Robots
Frontiers in Robotics and AI
Due to the decentralized, loosely coupled nature of a swarm and to the lack of a general design methodology, the development of control software for robot swarms is typically an iterative process. Control software is generally modified and refined repeatedly, either manually or automatically, until satisfactory results are obtained. In this paper, we propose a technique based on off-policy evaluation to estimate how the performance of an instance of control software—implemented as a
... c finite-state machine—would be impacted by modifying the structure and the value of the parameters. The proposed technique is particularly appealing when coupled with automatic design methods belonging to the AutoMoDe family, as it can exploit the data generated during the design process. The technique can be used either to reduce the complexity of the control software generated, improving therefore its readability, or to evaluate perturbations of the parameters, which could help in prioritizing the exploration of the neighborhood of the current solution within an iterative improvement algorithm. To evaluate the technique, we apply it to control software generated with an AutoMoDe method, Chocolate−6S . In a first experiment, we use the proposed technique to estimate the impact of removing a state from a probabilistic finite-state machine. In a second experiment, we use it to predict the impact of changing the value of the parameters. The results show that the technique is promising and significantly better than a naive estimation. We discuss the limitations of the current implementation of the technique, and we sketch possible improvements, extensions, and generalizations.