Performance Benefits of Self-Assembly in a Swarm-Bot
Mobile robots are said to be capable of self-assembly when they can autonomously form physical connections with each other. Despite the recent proliferation of self-assembling systems, little work has been done on using self-assembly to add functional value to a robotic system, and even less on quantifying the contribution of self-assembly to system performance. In this study we demonstrate and quantify the performance benefits of i) acting as a physically larger self-assembled entity, ii) using self-assembly adaptively and iii) making the robots morphologically aware (the self-assembled robots leverage their new connected morphology in a task specific way). In our experiments, two real robots must navigate to a target over a-priori unknown terrain. In some cases the terrain can only be overcome by a self-assembled connected entity. In other cases, the robots can reach the target faster by navigating individually.