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Unformatted text preview: Building Patterned Structures with Robot Swarms Justin Werfel 1 , 2 firstname.lastname@example.org Yaneer Bar-Yam 2 , 3 email@example.com Radhika Nagpal 3 firstname.lastname@example.org 1 MIT CSAIL Cambridge, MA 02139 2 New England Complex Systems Institute Cambridge, MA 02138 3 Harvard University Cambridge, MA 02138 Abstract We describe a system in which simple, identi- cal, autonomous robots assemble two-dimensional structures using prefabricated modules as build- ing blocks. Modules are capable of some infor- mation processing, enabling them to share long- range structural information and communicate it to robots. This communication allows arbitrary solid structures to be rapidly built using a few fixed, local robot behaviors. Modules are identical in shape but may be functionally distinct, with constraints gov- erning the location of different classes. We present algorithms for assembly of solid structures of any shape, both when the layout of module classes is fully specified in advance, and when functional constraints are satisfied during the building process, allowing for adaptive structures. This approach demonstrates a decentralized, autonomous, flexi- ble, simple, and adaptive approach to construction. 1 Introduction In this paper we discuss the design of a system for automated construction, in which elements are separated into mobile and structural components (robots and modular blocks, re- spectively). Our approach is to use robots that are simple in capabilities and behavior, and that communicate indirectly through information stored in the environment; that informa- tion is embodied by the blocks, which themselves can com- municate with one another when attached. Here we focus on construction when the blocks are identical in shape but heterogenous in function, and a given set of functional con- straints governs how they can be put together. We first show how specific structures can be built, and then discuss the as- sembly of structures which have no prespecified plan but sat- isfy a given set of constraints. Our approach relies on very simple procedures and there- fore should be practical for the complexities and difficulties of real robots in physical environments. The limited require- ments for implementation are that robots be able to follow a perimeter, communicate with immediately adjacent blocks, and push together blocks with self-aligning connectors. Prob- lems, from unexpected environmental influences to break- down of some robots, need not prevent completion of a struc- ture; temporary failures at any step can be corrected. The ability to automate construction would be useful par- ticularly in settings where human presence is dangerous or problematic; for instance, robots could be initially sent to un- derwater or extraterrestrial environments, to create habitats to await later human travelers. Swarm approaches, involv- ing larger numbers of simpler robots rather than one or a few with greater sophistication, have advantages for such a goal, in particular with respect to decentralization and robustness.in particular with respect to decentralization and robustness....
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- Spring '08