Collective transport of complex objects by simple robots: Theory and experiments

Michael Rubenstein, Adrian Cabrera, Justin Werfel, Golnaz Habibi, James McLurkin, Radhika Nagpal

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

84 Scopus citations

Abstract

Ants show an incredible ability to collectively transport complex irregular-shaped objects with seemingly simple coordination. Achieving similarly effective collective transport with robots has potential applications in many settings, from agriculture to construction to disaster relief. In this paper we investigate a simple decentralized strategy for collective transport in which each agent acts independently without explicit coordination. Using a physics-based model, we prove that this strategy is guaranteed to successfully transport a complex object to a target location, even though each agent only knows the target direction and does not know the object shape, weight, its own position, or the position and number of other agents. Using two robot hardware platforms, and a wide variety of complex objects, we validate the strategy through extensive experiments. Finally, we present a set of experiments to demonstrate the versatility of the simple strategy, including transport by 100 robots, transport of an actively moving object, adaptation to change in goal location, and dealing with partially observable goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages47-54
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event12th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems 2013, AAMAS 2013 - Saint Paul, MN, United States
Duration: May 6 2013May 10 2013

Conference

Conference12th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems 2013, AAMAS 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySaint Paul, MN
Period5/6/135/10/13

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence

Keywords

  • Collective Intelligence
  • Multi-Robot Systems
  • Transport

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