Quality-Sensitive Foraging by a Robot Swarm Through Virtual Pheromone Trails

  • Anna Font Llenas
  • Mohamed S. Talamali
  • Xu Xu
  • James A. R. Marshall
  • Andreagiovanni ReinaEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11172)


Large swarms of simple autonomous robots can be employed to find objects clustered at random locations, and transport them to a central depot. This solution offers system parallelisation through concurrent environment exploration and object collection by several robots, but it also introduces the challenge of robot coordination. Inspired by ants’ foraging behaviour, we successfully tackle robot swarm coordination through indirect stigmergic communication in the form of virtual pheromone trails. We design and implement a robot swarm composed of up to 100 Kilobots using the recent technology Augmented Reality for Kilobots (ARK). Using pheromone trails, our memoryless robots rediscover object sources that have been located previously. The emerging collective dynamics show a throughput inversely proportional to the source distance. We assume environments with multiple sources, each providing objects of different qualities, and we investigate how the robot swarm balances the quality-distance trade-off by using quality-sensitive pheromone trails. To our knowledge this work represents the largest robotic experiment in stigmergic foraging, and is the first complete demonstration of ARK, showcasing the set of unique functionalities it provides.



This work was funded by the ERC under the EU-H2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement 647704). The authors thank Michael Port, Alex Cope, and Carlo Pinciroli for their crucial help and support in tackling the hardware and software challenges of this project.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Department of Engineering and MathematicsSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK
  3. 3.MERISheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

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