Artificial Life and Robotics

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 459–468 | Cite as

Phototactic supersmarticles

  • William Savoie
  • Sarah Cannon
  • Joshua J. Daymude
  • Ross Warkentin
  • Shengkai Li
  • Andréa W. Richa
  • Dana Randall
  • Daniel I. GoldmanEmail author
Original Article


Smarticles or smart active particles are small robots equipped with only basic movement and sensing abilities that are incapable of rotating or displacing individually. We study the ensemble behavior of smarticles, i.e., the behavior a collective of these very simple computational elements can achieve, and how such behavior can be implemented using minimal programming. We show that an ensemble of smarticles constrained to remain close to one another (which we call a supersmarticle), achieves directed locomotion toward or away from a light source, a phenomenon known as phototaxing. We present experimental and theoretical models of phototactic supersmarticles that collectively move with a directed displacement in response to light. The motion of the supersmarticle is stochastic, performing approximate free diffusion, and is a result of chaotic interactions among smarticles. The system can be directed by introducing asymmetries among the individual smarticle’s behavior, in our case, by varying activity levels in response to light, resulting in supersmarticle-biased motion.


Swarm robotics Locomotion Phototaxing Active matter Programmable matter 



S. Cannon: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. NSF DGE-1650044. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. J. J. Daymude and A. W. Richa: Supported in part by NSF CCF-1422603, CCF-1637393, and CCF-1733680. D. I. Goldman: Funding provided by NSF PoLS #0957659 and #PHY-1205878, and ARO #W911NF-13-1-0347. D. Randall: Supported in part by NSF CCF-1526900, CCF-1637031, and CCF-1733812.


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Copyright information

© ISAROB 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Savoie
    • 1
  • Sarah Cannon
    • 2
  • Joshua J. Daymude
    • 3
  • Ross Warkentin
    • 1
  • Shengkai Li
    • 1
  • Andréa W. Richa
    • 3
  • Dana Randall
    • 2
  • Daniel I. Goldman
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of PhysicsGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.College of ComputingGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Computer Science, CIDSEArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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