Conference Paper : Branched Structure Formation in a Decentralized Flock of Wheeled Robots

Authors and affiliation

  • Antoine  Gaget, Manchester Metropolitan University,  Manchester, UK/
  • Jean-Marie Montanier, Tinyclues, Paris, France.
  • René Doursat, Complex Systems Institute Paris Ile-de-France (ISC-PIF) Paris, France.


Swarm robotics studies how a large number of relatively simple robots can accomplish various functions collectively and dynamically. Modular robotics concentrates on the design of specialized connected parts to perform precise tasks, while other swarms exhibit more fluid flocking and group adaptation. Here we focus on the process of morphogenesis per se, i.e. the programmable and reliable bottom-up emergence of shapes at a higher level of organization. We show that simple abstract rules of behavior executed by each agent (their “genotype”), involving message passing, virtual link creation, and force-based motion, are sufficient to generate various reproducible and scalable multi-agent branched structures (the “phenotypes”). On this basis, we propose a model of collective robot dynamics based on “morphogenetic engineering” principles, in particular an algorithm of programmable network growth, and how it allows a flock of self-propelled wheeled robots on the ground to coordinate and function together. The model is implemented in simulation and demonstrated in physical experiments with the PsiSwarm platform.