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S. Nouyan, R. Groß, M. Bonani, F. Mondada, and M. Dorigo. Teamwork in Self-Organised Robot Colonies. Technical Report TR/IRIDIA/2008-005, IRIDIA, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium, February 2008.

Abstract

Swarm robotics draws inspiration from decentralised, self-organising biological systems in general and from the collective behaviour of social insects in particular. In social insect colonies, many tasks are performed by higher-order entities, such as groups and teams whose task solving capacities transcend those of the individual participants. In this paper, we investigate the emergence of such higher-order entities using a colony of up to 12 physical robots. We report on an experimental study in which the robots perform a foraging task. The task requires the robots to engage in a range of different activities, including exploration, path formation, recruitment, self-assembly and group transport. Once the robots start interacting with each other and with their environment, they self-organise into teams in which distinct roles are performed concurrently. The system displays a dynamical hierarchy of teamwork, the cooperating elements of which comprise higher-order entities. We believe our study to be one of the most complex examples of self-organisation in the robotics field. Moreover, the study shows that teamwork requires neither individual recognition (the robots we use are inter-changeable) nor inter-individual differences (the robots we use are identical in terms of “morphology” and “brain”), and as such might contribute to the ongoing debate on the role of such characteristics for the division of labour in social insects.


Updated: 2017-03-27