To succeed in their objectives, groups of individuals must be able to make quick and accurate collective decisions on the best among alternatives with different qualities. Group-living animals aim to do that all the time. Plants and fungi are thought to do so too. Swarms of autonomous robots can also be programmed to make best-of-n decisions for solving tasks collaboratively. Ultimately, humans critically need it and so many times they should be better at it! Despite their simplicity, mathematical tractability made models like the voter model (VM) and the local majority rule model (MR) useful to describe in simple terms such collective decision-making processes. To reach a consensus, individuals change their opinion by interacting with neighbours in their social network. At least among animals and robots, options with a better quality are exchanged more often and therefore spread faster than lower-quality options, leading to the collective selection of the best option. With our work, we study the impact of individuals making errors in pooling others' opinions caused, for example, to reduce the cognitive load. Our analysis in grounded on the introduction of a model that generalises the two existing VM and MR models, showing a speed-accuracy trade-off regulated by the cognitive effort of individuals. We also investigate the impact of the interaction network topology on the collective dynamics. To do so, we extend our model and, by using the heterogeneous mean-field approach, we show that another speed-accuracy trade-off is regulated by network connectivity. An interesting result is that reduced network connectivity corresponds to an increase in collective decision accuracy
With increasing numbers of mobile robots arriving in real-world applications, more robots coexist in the same space, interact, and possibly collaborate. Methods to provide such systems with system size scalability are known, for example, from swarm robotics. Example strategies are self-organizing behavior, a strict decentralized approach, and limiting the robot-robot communication. Despite applying such strategies, any multi-robot system breaks above a certain critical system size (i.e., number of robots) as too many robots share a resource (e.g., space, communication channel). We provide additional evidence based on simulations, that at these critical system sizes, the system performance separates into two phases: nearly optimal and minimal performance. We speculate that in real-world applications that are configured for optimal system size, the supposedly high-performing system may actually live on borrowed time as it is on a transient to breakdown. We provide two modeling options (based on queueing theory and a population model) that may help to support this reasoning.
* Submitted to the 2024 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and
Automation (ICRA 2024)
Collective intelligence and autonomy of robot swarms can be improved by enabling the individual robots to become aware they are the constituent units of a larger whole and what is their role. In this study, we present an algorithm to enable positional self-awareness in a swarm of minimalistic error-prone robots which can only locally broadcast messages and estimate the distance from their neighbours. Despite being unable to measure the bearing of incoming messages, the robots running our algorithm can calculate their position within a swarm deployed in a regular formation. We show through experiments with up to 200 Kilobot robots that such positional self-awareness can be employed by the robots to create a shared coordinate system and dynamically self-assign location-dependent tasks. Our solution has fewer requirements than state-of-the-art algorithms and contains collective noise-filtering mechanisms. Therefore, it has an extended range of robotic platforms on which it can run. All robots are interchangeable, run the same code, and do not need any prior knowledge. Through our algorithm, robots reach collective synchronisation, and can autonomously become self-aware of the swarm's spatial configuration and their position within it.
Self-organised aggregation is a well studied behaviour in swarm robotics as it is the pre-condition for the development of more advanced group-level responses. In this paper, we investigate the design of decentralised algorithms for a swarm of heterogeneous robots that self-aggregate over distinct target sites. A previous study has shown that including as part of the swarm a number of informed robots can steer the dynamic of the aggregation process to a desirable distribution of the swarm between the available aggregation sites. We have replicated the results of the previous study using a simplified approach, we removed constraints related to the communication protocol of the robots and simplified the control mechanisms regulating the transitions between states of the probabilistic controller. The results show that the performances obtained with the previous, more complex, controller can be replicated with our simplified approach which offers clear advantages in terms of portability to the physical robots and in terms of flexibility. That is, our simplified approach can generate self-organised aggregation responses in a larger set of operating conditions than what can be achieved with the complex controller.
Efficient engineered systems require scalability. A scalable system has increasing performance with increasing system size. In an ideal case, the increase in performance (e.g., speedup) corresponds to the number of units that are added to the system. However, if multiple units work on the same task, then coordination among these units is required. This coordination can introduce overheads with an impact on system performance. The coordination costs can lead to sublinear improvement or even diminishing performance with increasing system size. However, there are also systems that implement efficient coordination and exploit collaboration of units to attain superlinear improvement. Modeling the scalability dynamics is key to understanding efficient systems. Known laws of scalability, such as Amdahl's law, Gustafson's law, and Gunther's Universal Scalability Law, are minimalistic phenomenological models that explain a rich variety of system behaviors through concise equations. While useful to gain general insights, the phenomenological nature of these models may limit the understanding of the underlying dynamics, as they are detached from first principles that could explain coordination overheads among units. Through a decentralized system approach, we propose a general model based on generic interactions between units that is able to describe, as specific cases, any general pattern of scalability included by previously reported laws. The proposed general model of scalability is built on first principles, or at least on a microscopic description of interaction between units, and therefore has the potential to contribute to a better understanding of system behavior and scalability. We show that this model can be applied to a diverse set of systems, such as parallel supercomputers, robot swarms, or wireless sensor networks, creating a unified view on interdisciplinary design for scalability.
Will the Third World War be fought by robots? This short film is a light-hearted comedy that aims to trigger an interesting discussion and reflexion on the terrifying killer-robot stories that increasingly fill us with dread when we read the news headlines. The fictional scenario takes inspiration from current scientific research and describes a future where robots are asked by humans to join the war. Robots are divided, sparking protests in robot society... will robots join the conflict or will they refuse to be employed in human warfare? Food for thought for engineers, roboticists and anyone imagining what the upcoming robot revolution could look like. We let robots pop on camera to tell a story, taking on the role of actors playing in the film, instructed through code on how to "act" for each scene.
We investigate the emergence of language convention within a swarm of robots foraging in an open environment from two identical resources. While foraging, the swarm needs to explore and decide which resource to exploit, moving through complex transitory dynamics towards different possible equilibria, such as, selection of a single resource or spread across the two. Our point of interest is the understanding of possible correlations between the emergent, evolving, task-induced interaction network and the language dynamics. In particular, our goal is to determine whether the dynamics of the interaction network are sufficient to determine emergent naming conventions that represent features of the task execution (e.g., choice of one or the other resource) and of the environment, In other words, we look for an emergent vocabulary that is both complete (a word for each resource) and correct (no misnomer) for as long as each resource is relevant to the swarm. In this study, robots are playing two variants of the minimal language game. The classic one, where words are created when needed, and a new variant we introduce in this article: the spatial minimal naming game, where the creation of words is linked with the discovery of resources by exploring robots. We end the article by proposing a proof of concept extension of the spatial minimal naming game that assures the completeness and correctness of the swarms vocabulary.
Consensus dynamics in decentralised multiagent systems are subject to intense studies, and several different models have been proposed and analysed. Among these, the naming game stands out for its simplicity and applicability to a wide range of phenomena and applications, from semiotics to engineering. Despite the wide range of studies available, the implementation of theoretical models in real distributed systems is not always straightforward, as the physical platform imposes several constraints that may have a bearing on the consensus dynamics. In this paper, we investigate the effects of an implementation of the naming game for the kilobot robotic platform, in which we consider concurrent execution of games and physical interferences. Consensus dynamics are analysed in the light of the continuously evolving communication network created by the robots, highlighting how the different regimes crucially depend on the robot density and on their ability to spread widely in the experimental arena. We find that physical interferences reduce the benefits resulting from robot mobility in terms of consensus time, but also result in lower cognitive load for individual agents.