Teaching Robots Teamwork

Researchers at Peking University have devised new strategies to enable mobile robots to collaboratively form and maintain a circle arrangement.

AsianScientist (May 27, 2014) – Scientists are one step closer to intelligent robot teams with the demonstration of self-organized circle formation in mobile robots.

Cooperative mobile robots are increasingly being used to carry out a variety of tasks that are too complex or impossible for single robots to perform. Robot teamwork is an example of a multi-agent system, an interdisciplinary field of study involving mathematics, physics, biology and artificial intelligence.

In many scenarios, these agents are required to cooperatively generate and maintain certain desired geometric shapes to improve the quality of the data collected or the robustness of group motion. Circle formation is thus a benchmark problem used to evaluate the cooperativity of robot systems.

Professor Xie Guangming and his group at Peking University have published two research papers addressing circle formation in mobile robots.

In the first paper published in IEEE Transactions on Automatic and Control, they proposed distributed control laws for a group of anonymous mobile agents to form circles when the agents move in the one-dimensional space. To make the control strategies more practical, they used sampled-data control laws, which adopt time-varying gains to guide the agents to form the desired circle formation.

One feature of the proposed control laws is that they guarantee that the spatial ordering of the agents is preserved throughout the system’s evolution. Therefore, no collisions take place during the process of forming circle formations.

Considering that some robots cannot go backwards, Xie’s group went on to study the circle forming problem whereby agents are constrained to move only in the counterclockwise direction. In their second paper published in Automatica, they proved that multi-agent systems under constrained control can be guided to reach the prescribed circle without collision between agents. Their theoretical findings were validated with simulations.

The articles can be found at:
Wang et al. (2013) Forming Circle Formations of Anonymous Mobile Agents With Order Preservation.
Wang et al. (2014) Controlling Anonymous Mobile Agents with Unidirectional Locomotion to Form Formations on a Circle.


Source: Peking University.

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