Designing pheromone communication in swarm robotics: Group foraging behavior mediated by chemical substance

Abstract

In swarm robotics, communication among the robots is essential. Inspired by biological swarms using pheromones, we propose the use of chemical compounds to realize group foraging behavior in robot swarms. We designed a fully autonomous robot, and then created a swarm using ethanol as the trail pheromone allowing the robots to communicate with one another indirectly via pheromone trails. Our group recruitment and cooperative transport algorithms provide the robots with the required swarm behavior. We conducted both simulations and experiments with real robot swarms, and analyzed the data statistically to investigate any changes caused by pheromone communication in the performance of the swarm in solving foraging recruitment and cooperative transport tasks. The results show that the robots can communicate using pheromone trails, and that the improvement due to pheromone communication may be non-linear, depending on the size of the robot swarm.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We needed 5 min duration time of pheromone trail, and found that the robot lays down a few times in preliminary experiment. Therefore, we used 100v/v% ethanol which does not require sensitive micro-pump setting.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank Hikaru Imamura, who assisted with the experiments of attraction and cooperative transport, and Yuki Fujisawa, who despite being pregnant, tolerated the late return of her husband on numerous occasions.

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Correspondence to Ryusuke Fujisawa.

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Fujisawa, R., Dobata, S., Sugawara, K. et al. Designing pheromone communication in swarm robotics: Group foraging behavior mediated by chemical substance. Swarm Intell 8, 227–246 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11721-014-0097-z

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Keywords

  • Swarm robotics
  • Social insects
  • Pheromone communication