Researchers at the University of L’Aquila and the University of Perugia in Italy recently created MOBLOT, a swarm robotics model in which robotic molecules naturally form matter. This is stated in an article on ACM.
Swarm robotics research typically uses theoretical approaches to abstractly describe robotic systems. The theoretical model most commonly used in robotics research is OBLOT, representing robots as simple systems, identical, without memory and unable to communicate with each other.
“MOBLOT is a new model of theoretical swarm robotics,” said Alfredo Navarra, one of the researchers. “The acronym stands for Molecular OBLivious robOTs, because we were inspired by nature: like atoms combining into molecules in MOBLOT, simple robots can move, forming more complex computing units (also called molecules in the model).”
Once formed, molecular robots can take any shape based on certain compositional properties, forming robotic “matter”. Once a given shape has been formed, if other input signals or stimuli appear, molecules can automatically self-configure their positions to change that shape.
“Our ultimate goal is to model robotic matter that can change shape algorithmically. Until now, such a theoretical model has not been considered, ”concludes Navarra.
Compared to the OBLOT model and other approaches in robotics, the MOBLOT model can be applied in a larger number of scenarios in which the symmetry of the formation of a swarm of robots is broken. In fact, the model formalizes the behavior of very simple robots, which can form more complex robotic structures (“molecules”), which, in turn, can form various kinds of final compounds (“matter”).
In addition, the new theoretical model could inspire other teams to develop robots with compositional characteristics that resemble those of the robotic systems described.