Collective Construction Using Lego Robots

Crystal Schuil, Mathew Valente, Justin Werfel, Radhika Nagpal

Social insects, such as ants and termites, collectively build large and complex structures, with many individuals following simple rules and no centralized control or planning. Such swarm systems have many desirable properties: a high level of parallelism, cheap and expendable individuals, and robustness to loss, addition, and errors of individual insects. Our goal is to design systems for automating construction that are similarly adaptive and robust, but build what we want. Automated construction will impact our ability to operate in inhospitable habitats, from outer space to under water, and allow automated disassembly and repair. Recently, our group has developed a family of decentralized algorithms by which identically-programmed autonomous agents can collectively and reliably build user-specified solid 2D configurations from building blocks. In that system, the agents act without explicit communication, instead relying on the partially built structure as a form of indirect coordination similar to stigmergy in insects. In this exhibition we demonstrated a LEGO Mindstorms based prototype. Our current system has two robots, which autonomously construct 2D structures from flat building building blocks.

Subjects: 17. Robotics; 7.1 Multi-Agent Systems

Submitted: Oct 18, 2006

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