Designing an Emergent System: Collective Construction with Artificial Swarms

March 26, 2009
Interschool Lab, Room 750 CEPSR
Speaker: Justin Werfel, Postdoctoral Fellow, New England Complex Systems Institute


Social insects build large, complex structures, which emerge through the collective actions of many simple agents acting with no centralized control or preplanning. Such swarm systems have many desirable features, such as considerable parallelism and robustness to component loss.
However, designing local agent behaviors to achieve a desired global result is in general a serious challenge.

In this talk, I will describe the design and implementation of a system in which autonomous mobile robots collectively build user-specified structures from square building blocks. Robots act without explicit communication or cooperation, instead using the partially completed structure to coordinate their actions. Robust, decentralized algorithms let the system provably and reliably build arbitrary desired structures, using only a high-level design as input.

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