On self-organised aggregation dynamics in swarms of robots with informed robots

Ziya Firat, Eliseo Ferrante, Yannick Gillet, Elio Tuci*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Aggregation is a process observed in natural systems whereby individuals gather together to form large cluster.Recent studies with cockroaches and robots have shown that relatively simple individual mechanisms can account for how individuals manage to gather on a single shelter when two or more are available in the environment. In this paper, we use simulated swarms of robots to further explore the aggregation dynamics generated by these simple individual mechanisms.Our objective is to study the introduction of “informed robots”, and to study how many of these are needed to direct the aggregation process towards a pre-defined site among those available in the environment. Informed robots are members of a group that selectively avoid the site/s where no aggregate should emerge and stop only on the experimenter pre-defined site/s for aggregation. We study the aggregation process with informed robots in three different scenarios: two that are morphologically symmetric, whereby the different types of aggregation site are equally represented in the environment; and an asymmetric scenario, whereby the target site has an area that is half the area of the sites that should be avoided. We first show what happens when no robot in the swarm is informed: in symmetric environments, the swarm is able to break the symmetry and aggregates on one of the two types of site at random, not necessarily on the target site, while in the asymmetric environment, the swarm tends to aggregate on the sites that are most represented in terms of area. The original contribution of this study is to demonstrate the effect of the introduction of a small proportion of informed robots in both environments: In symmetric environments, they selectively direct the aggregation process towards the experimenter chosen site; in the asymmetric environment, informed robots can invert the spontaneous preference for the most represented site and induce the swarm to aggregate on the least represented type of site. Moreover, for each scenario, we analyse how the dynamics of the aggregation process depends on the proportion of informed robots. As a further valuable contribution of this study, we provide analytical results by studying a system of ordinary differential equations that is an extension of a well-known model. Using this model, we show how, for certain values of the parameters, the model can predict the dynamics observed with simulated robots in one of the two symmetric scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13825-13841
Number of pages17
JournalNeural Computing and Applications
Issue number17
Early online date2 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Aggregation
  • Informed individuals
  • Self-organisation
  • Swarm robotics


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