Journal article

Learning and Measuring Specialization in Collaborative Swarm Systems

This paper addresses qualitative and quantitative diversity and specialization issues in the framework of selforganizing, distributed, artificial systems. Both diversity and specialization are obtained via distributed learning from initially homogeneous swarms. While measuring diversity essentially quantifies differences among the individuals, assessing the degree of specialization implies correlation between the swarm’s heterogeneity with its overall performance. Starting from the stick-pulling experiment in collective robotics, a task that requires the collaboration of two robots, we abstract and generalize in simulation the task constraints to k robots collaborating sequentially or in parallel. We investigate quantitatively the influence of task constraints and types of reinforcement signals on performance, diversity, and specialization in these collaborative experiments. Results show that, though diversity is not explicitly rewarded in our learning algorithm, even in scenarios without explicit communication among agents the swarm becomes specialized after learning. The degrees of both diversity and specialization are affected strongly by environmental conditions and task constraints. While the specialization measure reveals characteristics related to performance and learning in a clearer way than diversity does, the latter measure appears to be less sensitive to different noise conditions and learning parameters.

Related material