Autonomous Robots

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 171–188

Trophallaxis within a robotic swarm: bio-inspired communication among robots in a swarm


DOI: 10.1007/s10514-007-9073-4

Cite this article as:
Schmickl, T. & Crailsheim, K. Auton Robot (2008) 25: 171. doi:10.1007/s10514-007-9073-4


This article presents a bio-inspired communication strategy for large-scale robotic swarms. The strategy is based purely on robot-to-robot interactions without any central unit of communication. Thus, the emerging swarm regulates itself in a purely self-organized way. The strategy is biologically inspired by the trophallactic behavior (mouth-to-mouth feedings) performed by social insects. We show how this strategy can be used in a collective foraging scenario and how the efficiency of this strategy can be shaped by evolutionary computation. Although the algorithm works stable enough that it can be easily parameterized by hand, we found that artificial evolution could further increase the efficiency of the swarm’s behavior. We investigated the suggested communication strategy by simulation of robotic swarms in several arena scenarios and studied the properties of some of the emergent collective decisions made by the robots. We found that our control algorithm led to a nonlinear, but graduated path selection of the emerging trail of loaded robots. They favored the shortest path, but not all robots converged to this trail, except in arena setups with extreme differences in the length of the two possible paths. Finally, we demonstrate how the flexibility of collective decisions that arise through this new strategy can be used in changing environments. We furthermore show the importance of a negative feedback in an environment with changing foraging targets. Such feedback loops allow outdated information to decay over time. We found that task efficiency is constrained by a lower and an upper boundary concerning the strength of this negative feedback.


Swarm roboticsCommunicationNavigationForagingCollective decisionSelf-organizationSwarm intelligenceHoney beeTrophallaxis

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for ZoologyKarl-Franzens-University GrazGrazAustria