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Supervised morphogenesis: Exploiting morphological flexibility of self-assembling multirobot systems through cooperation with aerial robots

: Mathews, N.; Christensen, A.L.; Stranieri, A.; Scheidler, A.; Dorigo, M.


Robotics and autonomous systems 112 (2019), S.154-167
ISSN: 0921-8890
ISSN: 0167-8493
Fraunhofer IEE ()

Self-assembling robots have the potential to undergo autonomous morphological adaptation. However, due to the simplicity in their hardware makeup and their limited perspective of the environment, self-assembling robots are often not able to reach their potential and adapt their morphologies to tasks or environments without external cues or prior information. In this paper, we present supervised morphogenesis — a control methodology that makes self-assembling robots truly flexible by enabling aerial robots to exploit their elevated position and better view of the environment to initiate and control (hence supervise) morphology formation on the ground. We present results of two case studies in which we assess the feasibility of the presented methodology using real robotic hardware. In the case studies, we implemented supervised morphogenesis using two different aerial platforms and up to six self-assembling autonomous robots. We furthermore quantify the benefits attainable for self-assembling robots through cooperation with aerial robots using simulation-based studies. The research presented in this paper is a significant step towards realizing the true potential of self-assembling robots by enabling autonomous morphological adaptation to a priori unknown tasks and environments.