Conference paper

The Role of Environmental and Controller Complexity in the Distributed Optimization of Multi-Robot Obstacle Avoidance

The ability to move in complex environments is a fundamental requirement for robots to be a part of our daily lives. Increasing the controller complexity may be a desirable choice in order to obtain an improved performance. However, these two aspects may pose a considerable challenge on the optimization of robotic controllers. In this paper, we study the trade-offs between the complexity of reactive controllers and the complexity of the environment in the optimization of multi-robot obstacle avoidance for resource-constrained platforms. The optimization is carried out in simulation using a distributed, noise-resistant implementation of Particle Swarm Optimization, and the resulting controllers are evaluated both in simulation and with real robots. We show that in a simple environment, linear controllers with only two parameters perform similarly to more complex non-linear controllers with up to twenty parameters, even though the latter ones require more evaluation time to be learned. In a more complicated environment, we show that there is an increase in performance when the controllers can differentiate between front and backwards sensors, but increasing further the number of sensors and adding non-linear activation functions provide no further benefit. In both environments, augmenting reactive control laws with simple memory capabilities causes the highest increase in performance. We also show that in the complex environment the performance measurements are noisier, the optimal parameter region is smaller, and more iterations are required for the optimization process to converge.

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