RGMComm: Return Gap Minimization via Discrete Communications in Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning


  • Jingdi Chen The George Washington University
  • Tian Lan The George Washington University
  • Carlee Joe-Wong Carnegie Mellon University




MAS: Multiagent Learning, ML: Transparent, Interpretable, Explainable ML, MAS: Agent Communication


Communication is crucial for solving cooperative Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning tasks in partially observable Markov Decision Processes. Existing works often rely on black-box methods to encode local information/features into messages shared with other agents, leading to the generation of continuous messages with high communication overhead and poor interpretability. Prior attempts at discrete communication methods generate one-hot vectors trained as part of agents' actions and use the Gumbel softmax operation for calculating message gradients, which are all heuristic designs that do not provide any quantitative guarantees on the expected return. This paper establishes an upper bound on the return gap between an ideal policy with full observability and an optimal partially observable policy with discrete communication. This result enables us to recast multi-agent communication into a novel online clustering problem over the local observations at each agent, with messages as cluster labels and the upper bound on the return gap as clustering loss. To minimize the return gap, we propose the Return-Gap-Minimization Communication (RGMComm) algorithm, which is a surprisingly simple design of discrete message generation functions and is integrated with reinforcement learning through the utilization of a novel Regularized Information Maximization loss function, which incorporates cosine-distance as the clustering metric. Evaluations show that RGMComm significantly outperforms state-of-the-art multi-agent communication baselines and can achieve nearly optimal returns with few-bit messages that are naturally interpretable.




How to Cite

Chen, J., Lan, T., & Joe-Wong, C. (2024). RGMComm: Return Gap Minimization via Discrete Communications in Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 38(16), 17327-17336. https://doi.org/10.1609/aaai.v38i16.29680



AAAI Technical Track on Multiagent Systems