Distributed Computing by Mobile Robots: Gathering


Consider a set of n > 2 identical mobile computational entities in the plane, called robots, operating in Look-Compute-Move cycles, without any means of direct communication. The Gathering Problem is the primitive task of all entities gathering in finite time at a point not fixed in advance, without any external control. The problem has been extensively studied in the literature under a variety of strong assumptions (e.g., synchronicity of the cycles, instantaneous movements, complete memory of the past, common coordinate system, etc.). In this paper we consider the setting without those assumptions, that is, when the entities are oblivious (i.e., they do not remember results and observations from previous cycles), disoriented (i.e., have no common coordinate system), and fully asynchronous (i.e., no assumptions exist on timing of cycles and activities within a cycle). The existing algorithmic contributions for such robots are limited to solutions for n ≤ 4 or for restricted sets of initial configurations of the robots; the question of whether such weak robots could determin-istically gather has remained open. In this paper, we prove that indeed the Gathering Problem is solvable, for any n > 2 and any initial configuration, even under such restrictive conditions.

DOI: 10.1137/100796534

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