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Joint Attention for Multi-Agent Coordination and Social Learning

Dennis Lee
Natasha Jaques
Jiaxing Wu
Dale Schuurmans
ICRA Workshop on Social Intelligence in Humans and Robots (2021)


Joint attention — the ability to purposefully coordinate your attention with another person, and mutually attend to the same thing — is an important milestone in human cognitive development. In this paper, we ask whether joint attention can be useful as a mechanism for improving multi-agent coordination and social learning. We first develop deep reinforcement learning (RL) agents with a recurrent visual attention architecture. We then train agents to minimize the difference between the attention weights that they apply to the environment at each timestep, and the attention of other agents. Our results show that this joint attention incentive improves agents’ ability to solve difficult coordination tasks, by helping overcome the problem of exploring the combinatorial multi-agent action space. Joint attention leads to higher performance than a competitive centralized critic baseline across multiple environments. Further, we show that joint attention enhances agents’ ability to learn from experts present in their environment, even when performing single-agent tasks. Taken together, these findings suggest that joint attention may be a useful inductive bias for improving multi-agent learning.

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