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A Programming Language for Robot Swarms


Directing the individual robots that make up a swarm.

A new programming language designed to govern the movements of heterogeneous robot swarms could lead to self-organized behavior.

Credit: Technology Review

Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal researchers have developed Buzz, a programming language designed to govern the movements of heterogeneous robot swarms and lead to self-organized behavior.

The researchers say Buzz accommodates two opposing swarm control strategies: a bottom-up approach in which each robot is controlled individually, and a top-down approach in which the swarm is controlled en masse.

"We believe that a language for robot swarms must combine both bottom-up and top-down primitives, allowing the developer to pick the most comfortable level of abstraction to express a swarm algorithm," the researchers say. They also note Buzz enables intuitive command combinations with predictable outcomes that make it relatively simple to use. 

In addition, the language has scalability so it can be used in different-sized swarms.

Postdoctoral researcher Carlo Pinciroli says the lack of a standardized programming language for swarms is a significant obstacle to future progress because there is no easy way for researchers to share their work and build on each other's advances. "We believe that one of the most important aspects of Buzz is its potential to become an enabler for future research on real-world, complex swarm robotics systems," the researchers note. The research director was Giovanni Beltrame of Polytechnique Montreal.

Among the team's future plans is developing a library of established swarm behaviors that will become building blocks for the future work of others.

From Technology Review
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