Journal article

Teamwork in Self-Organized Robot Colonies

Swarm robotics draws inspiration from decentralized self-organizing biological systems in general and from the collective behavior of social insects in particular. In social insect colonies, many tasks are performed by higher order group or team entities, whose task-solving capacities transcend those of the individual participants. In this paper, we investigate the emergence of such higher order entities. We report on an experimental study in which a team of physical robots performs a foraging task. The robots are “identical” in hardware and control. They make little use of memory and take actions purely on the basis of local information. Our study advances the current state of the art in swarm robotics with respect to the number of real-world robots engaging in teamwork (up to 12 robots in the most challenging experiment). To the best of our knowledge, in this paper we present the first self-organized system of robots that displays a dynamical hierarchy of teamwork (with cooperation also occurring among higher order entities). Our study shows that teamwork requires neither individual recognition nor differences between individuals. This result might also contribute to the ongoing debate on the role of these characteristics in the division of labor in social insects.

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