Particle computation: Designing worlds to control robot swarms with only global signals


Micro- and nanorobots are often controlled by global input signals, such as an electromagnetic or gravitational field. These fields move each robot maximally until it hits a stationary obstacle or another stationary robot. This paper investigates 2D motion-planning complexity for large swarms of simple mobile robots (such as bacteria, sensors, or smart building material). In previous work we proved it is NP-hard to decide whether a given initial configuration can be transformed into a desired target configuration; in this paper we prove a stronger result: the problem of finding an optimal control sequence is PSPACE-complete. On the positive side, we show we can build useful systems by designing obstacles. We present a reconfigurable hardware platform and demonstrate how to form arbitrary permutations and build a compact absolute encoder. We then take the same platform and use dual-rail logic to build a universal logic gate that concurrently evaluates AND, NAND, NOR and OR operations. Using many of these gates and appropriate interconnects we can evaluate any logical expression.

DOI: 10.1109/ICRA.2014.6907856

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@article{Becker2014ParticleCD, title={Particle computation: Designing worlds to control robot swarms with only global signals}, author={Aaron Becker and Erik D. Demaine and S{\'a}ndor P. Fekete and James McLurkin}, journal={2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)}, year={2014}, pages={6751-6756} }