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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Automatic Programming Makes Swarm Robots Safer and More Reliable

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A robot swarm.

Researchers from at the University of Sheffield have applied a novel method of automatically programming and controlling a swarm of up to 600 robots to complete a specified set of tasks simultaneously.

Credit: University of Sheffield

An automated programming method previously used in manufacturing could make swarm robots more user-friendly and more reliable.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have used the supervisory control theory for the first time with a swarm of robots. The team reports the novel method reduces the need for human input and therefore error.

The group used a graphical tool to define tasks for up to 600 robots, and then a machine automatically programmed and translated this to the robots. The program uses a form of linguistics, comparable to using the alphabet in the English language, and the robots use their own alphabet to construct words related to what they perceive and actions they choose to perform.

The researchers say the supervisory control theory helps the robots to choose only those actions that eventually result in valid "words," guaranteeing their behavior meets the specification. They note this approach would reduce many of the bugs that occur in programming.

The researchers next plan to focus on finding ways in which humans can collaborate with swarms of robots so the communication is two-way and they can learn from each other.

From University of Sheffield
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