Coordinating Massive Robot Swarms

Coordinating Massive Robot Swarms

Bruce J. MacLennan (Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJRAT.2014070101
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Abstract

This paper addresses the problem of how to coordinate the behavior of very large numbers of microrobots in order to assemble complex, hierarchically structured physical objects. The approach is patterned after morphogenetic processes during embryological development, in which masses of simple agents (cells) coordinate to produce complex three-dimensional structures. In order to ensure that the coordination mechanisms scale up to hundreds of thousands or millions of microrobots, the swarm is treated as a continuous mass using partial differential equations. The paper presents algorithms and simulations for assembling segmented structures (artificial spines and legs) and for routing artificial neural fiber bundles.
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Artificial Morphogenesis

Morphogenesis as a Model

We have an example of how hierarchical self-assembly can be accomplished in embryological morphogenesis, which coordinates billions or trillions of cells to assemble a complex, hierarchical body (Nüsslein-Volhard, 2008). Even a relatively simple animal has a large number of tissues, organs, vessels, nerves, etc. that are physically structured in a complex and functional organization. Moreover, multicellular organisms are hierarchically organized from the cellular (and indeed nano) level up to macroscopic level. Beginning from a single cell, the developing zygote begins to organize itself, establishing poles and layers, and the progressing organization governs future development, so that the microscopic agents (the cells) create the structure that governs their own future behavior. Cells migrate, following chemical gradients, and create forces and pressures that help to shape the tissues. Under the influence of structured signals, cells differentiate into functionally distinct tissues. Thus, the development of the embryo provides an inspiring example of how microscopic agents can coordinate their mutual behavior so as to self-organize into an immensely complicated structure. Our goal in artificial morphogenesis is to mimic these processes for the self-assembly of complex, hierarchical artificial systems by massive robot swarms.

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