Simulating large numbers of agents, performing complex behaviors in realistic environments is a difficult problem with applications in robotics, computer graphics and animation. A multi-agent system can be a useful tool for studying a range of situations in simulation in order to plan and train for actual events. Systems supporting such simulations can be used to study and train for emergency or disaster scenarios including search and rescue, civilian crowd control, evacuation of a building, and many other training situations.
This work describes our approach to multi-agent systems which integrates a roadmap-based approach with agent-based systems for groups of agents performing a wide range of behaviors. The system that we have developed is highly customizable and allows us to study a variety of behaviors and scenarios. The system is tunable in the kinds of agents that can exist and parameters that describe the agents. The agents can have any number of behaviors which dictate how they react throughout a simulation. Aspects that are unique to our approach to multi-agent group behavior are the environmental encoding that the agents use when navigating and the extensive usage of the roadmap in our behavioral framework. Our roadmap-based approach can be utilized to encode both basic and very complex environments which include multi-level buildings, terrains and stadiums.
In this work, we develop techniques to improve the simulation of multi-agent systems. The movement strategies we have developed can be used to validate agent movement in a simulated environment and evaluate building designs by varying portions of the environment to see the effect on pedestrian flow. The strategies we develop for searching and tracking improve the ability of agents within our roadmap-based framework to clear areas and track agents in realistic environments.
The application focus of this work is on pursuit-evasion and evacuation planning. In pursuit-evasion, one group of agents, the pursuers, attempts to find and capture another set of agents, the evaders. The evaders have a goal of avoiding the pursuers. In evacuation planning, the evacuating agents attempt to find valid paths through potentially complex environments to a safe goal location determined by their environmental knowledge. Another group of agents, the directors may attempt to guide the evacuating agents. These applications require the behaviors created to be tunable to a range of scenarios so they can reflect real-world reactions by agents. They also potentially require interaction and coordination between agents in order to improve the realism of the scenario being studied. These applications illustrate the scalability of our system in terms of the number of agents that can be supported, the kinds of realistic environments that can be handled, and behaviors that can be simulated.