Cooperative Autonomous Robots
In 2001, Dynamic Concepts won a NASA Phase I SBIR contract to formulate a control architecture that will enable autonomous robots to act in unison to assemble a given structure. Inspired by the biological example of cooperative nest building by social insects, the architecture's robotic construction agents perform their construction duties stigmergically, i.e., without direct inter-agent communication and without a preprogrammed global blueprint of the final design. Communication and coordination between individual agents occurs indirectly through sensed modifications made to the structure by each agent.
During the Phase I research, basic software for developing construction “rules,” along with a building simulator was developed. The graphic below shows a time-line of a simulation of robotic agents assembling a “space solar power” type structure via the stigmergic building algorithm. A graphic animation generated by the visualization program can be found on our animations page.
The final report is also available to be viewed or downloaded - NASA 2001 Phase I SBIR Final Report - A Cooperive Multi-Robot Control Architecture.
In 2002, Dynamic Concepts began the Phase II SBIR research which continued the cooperative robotics effort. During Phase II, the prototype multi-robot architecture was comprehensively developed, which included creating hardware demonstrations of the stigmergically based building algorithm. One demonstration utilizes pedestal mounted robotic arms to build three-dimensional structures. A second demonstration uses small mobile robots to build planar structures. Software is available from this site which allows anyone with internet access to try their hand at designing assembly rules, run a construction simulation, and view the visualization.
Pedestal Robot Workspace
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Mobile Robot Workspace
(On slower Internet connections, right click image and select "Save Target As" to download the video files to your computer)
Stigmergy Video #1
Hex Flower Build 7.22.2004
This video shows a complete stigmergic build with one searching agent and one transporter. The searching agent understands (i.e., is programmed with) a set of simple “rules” which trigger a “build response” when a certain pattern in the agent's local sensed neighborhood is satisfied. In this case, the “build response” of the searching agent is to request the transporter robot to deposit a building block (colored hexagon) to the searching agent's location. Simple radio communications and an overhead vision system are utilized in this demonstration.
Stigmergy Video #2
Hex Gap Multi Agent Build 7.29.2004
This video shows a time lapsed stigmergic build with two searching agents and one transporter. This build simulates the construction of a two dimensional wheel structure. Again, simple radio communications and an overhead vision system are utilized in this demonstration. A graphic animation of a simulation of the rules that construct the "Hex Gap" structure is at our animations page.
Stigmergy Video #3
Pedestal Robot Solar Platform Build 8.30.2004
This video shows a complete stigmergic build with one searching agent and one transporter. This build simulates the construction of a three dimensional tower structure. A graphic animation of a simulation of the rules that construct the "solar platform" structure is at our animations page.
StigmergyWeb Simulation Software - a Java WebStart program that allows you to create rules, run the simulation, and view an animation of the construction process - was previously available online.
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