Baraka, K. ; Melo, F. S. ; Couto, M. ; Veloso, M.

Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems


Agents providing assistance to humans are faced with the challenge of automatically adjusting the level of assistance to ensure optimal performance. In this work, we argue that identifying the right level of assistance consists in balancing positive assistance outcomes and some (domain-dependent) measure of cost associated with assistive actions. Towards this goal, we contribute a general mathematical framework for structured tasks where an agent playing the role of a ‘provider’—e.g., therapist, teacher—assists a human ‘receiver’—e.g., patient, student. We specifically consider tasks where the provider agent needs to plan a sequence of actions over a fixed time horizon, where actions are organized along a hierarchy with increasing success probabilities, and some associated costs. The goal of the provider is to achieve a success with the lowest expected cost possible. We present OAssistMe, an algorithm that generates cost-optimal action sequences given the action parameters, and investigate several extensions of it, motivated by different potential application domains. We provide an analysis of the algorithms, including proofs for a number of properties of optimal solutions that, we show, align with typical human provider strategies. Finally, we instantiate our theoretical framework in the context of robot-assisted therapy tasks for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In this context, we present methods for determining action parameters based on a survey of domain experts and real child-robot interaction data. Our contributions unlock increased levels of flexibility for agents introduced in a variety of assistive contexts.