A Swarm of Simple Robots Constructing Planar Shapes

Andrew Vardy, Dalia S. Ibrahim

We present a new version of our previously proposed algorithm enabling a swarm of robots to construct a desired shape from objects in the plane. We also describe a hardware realization for this system which makes use of simple and readily sourced components. We refer to the task as planar construction which is the gathering of ambient objects into some desired shape. As an example application, a swarm of robots could use this algorithm to not only gather waste material into a pile, but shape that pile into a line for easy collection. The shape is specified by an image known as the scalar field. The scalar field serves an analogous role to the template pheromones that guide the construction of complex natural structures such as termite mounds. In addition to describing the algorithm and hardware platform, we develop some performance insights using a custom simulation environment and present experimental results on physical robots.

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