Two papers recently appeared, on PLOS ONE and on Robotics and Autonomous Systems.
The first one is about a study on decentralised decision making in multi-agent systems. The study has been conducted in collaboration with Andreagiovanni Reina, Gabriele Valentini, Cristian Fernandéz Oto and Marco Dorigo. It propose a design pattern for the design of collective decisions in multi-agent systems, and provides a link between the (macroscopic) dynamics of the system as-a-whole, and the rules determining the (microscopic) individual behaviour of each agent in the system.
Abstract The engineering of large-scale decentralised systems requires sound methodologies to guarantee the attainment of the desired macroscopic system-level behaviour given the microscopic individual-level implementation. While a general-purpose methodology is currently out of reach, specific solutions can be given to broad classes of problems by means of well-conceived design patterns. We propose a design pattern for collective decision making grounded on experimental/theoretical studies of the nest-site selection behaviour observed in honeybee swarms (Apis mellifera). The way in which honeybee swarms arrive at consensus is fairly well-understood at the macroscopic level. We provide formal guidelines for the microscopic implementation of collective decisions to quantitatively match the macroscopic predictions. We discuss implementation strategies based on both homogeneous and heterogeneous multiagent systems, and we provide means to deal with spatial and topological factors that have a bearing on the micro-macro link. Finally, we exploit the design pattern in two case studies that showcase the viability of the approach. Besides engineering, such a design pattern can prove useful for a deeper understanding of decision making in natural systems thanks to the inclusion of individual heterogeneities and spatial factors, which are often disregarded in theoretical modelling.
The second paper is about a robotics construction system using sand-bags as construction materials. The study has been conducted in collaboration with Touraj Soleymani, Michael Bonani, Francesco Mondada and Marco Dorigo. It demonstrates autonomous construction by a robot using fabric pockets filled with rice to build a protective barrier, and extends the concept to collaborative construction by a group of robots.
Abstract In this paper, we develop an autonomous construction system in which self-contained ground robots build a protective barrier by means of compliant pockets. We present a stochastic control algorithm based on two biological mechanisms–stigmergy and templates–that takes advantage of compliant pockets for autonomous construction with single and multiple robots. The control algorithm guides the robot(s) to build the protective barrier without relying on a central planner, an external computer, or a motion capture system. We propose a statistical model to represent the structures built with the compliant pockets, and we provide a set of criteria for assessing the performance of the proposed system. To demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed system, real-robot and simulation experiments were carried out. The results show the viability of the proposed autonomous construction system.