Biologically Inspired Collective Robotics
C. Ronald Kube (Syncrude Research Centre, Canada and University of Alberta, Canada), Chris A.C. Parker (University of Alberta, Canada), Tao Wang (University of Alberta, Canada) and Hong Zhang (University of Alberta, Canada)
Copyright: © 2005
In this chapter, we review our recent research in the area of collective robotics, and the problem of controlling multiple robots in the completion of common tasks. Our approach is characterized with a strong inclination for biological inspiration in which examples in nature — social insects in particular — are used as a way of designing strategies for controlling robots. This approach has been successfully applied to the study of three representative tasks, namely, collective box-pushing, collective construction, and collective sorting. Collective box-pushing deals with the purposeful motion of an object too large to be moved by a single robot and we rely on the group prey transport phenomenon found in ants to derive the necessary behaviors for accomplishing this task. Collective construction is concerned with the building of a geometric structure with the combined efforts of many individuals in parallel, without centralized control and we study a species of ant known to possess this capability, to model and control the process of creating a circular nest with multiple robots. Finally, in collective sorting the broad behavior in ants serves as the motivation behind designing robotic behaviors that depend on only local sensing in clustering objects of different types into separate piles. The success of our proposed approach is supported by both simulation and physical experiments using robots.