ULTRACEPT researcher Mr. Tian Liu recently published his journal article T. Liu, X. Sun, C. Hu, Q. Fu and S. Yue, A Multiple Pheromone Communication System for Swarm Intelligence, in IEEE Access, vol. 9, pp. 148721-148737, 2021. In this post, Mr. Liu shares with us the highlights of this research.
Pheromones are chemical substances essential for communication among social insects. In the application of swarm intelligence to real micro mobile robots, the deployment of a single virtual pheromone has emerged recently as a powerful real-time method for indirect communication. However, these studies usually exploit only one kind of pheromones in their task, neglecting the crucial fact that in the world of real insects, multiple pheromones play important roles in shaping stigmergic behaviours such as foraging or nest building. To explore the multiple pheromones mechanism which enable robots to solve complex collective tasks efficiently, we introduce an artificial multiple pheromone system (ColCOSΦ) to support swarm intelligence research by enabling multiple robots to deploy and react to multiple pheromones simultaneously. The proposed system ColCOSΦ uses optical signals to emulate different evaporating chemical substances i.e. pheromones. These emulated pheromones are represented by trails displayed on a wide LCD display screen positioned horizontally, on which multiple miniature robots can move freely. The colour sensors beneath the robots can detect and identify lingering “pheromones” on the screen. Meanwhile, the release of any pheromone from each robot is enabled by monitoring its positional information over time with an overhead camera. No other communication methods apart from virtual pheromones are employed in this system. Two case studies have been carried out which have verified the feasibility and effectiveness of the proposed system in achieving complex swarm tasks as empowered by multiple pheromones. This novel platform is a timely and powerful tool for research into swarm intelligence.
This research introduced novel platform which can implement swarm robots experiments with multiple pheromone communication. In this study, a series of experiments have been designed using real robots to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed system, followed by two case studies including a food recruitment task and a behaviour mediation task. These bespoke case studies investigate the efficiency, modulation method and robustness of the system. Results from these systematic experiments show that multiple pheromones can be precisely emulated by optical signals. Their functionalities can also be interpreted and reacted correctly by swarm robots in real-time. The proposed multiple pheromone system provides a powerful tool facilitating the exploration of more complex collective behaviours in both biological and robotic swarm systems, especially in foraging and aggregation.
Future research of multiple pheromone mechanism may play an important role in unravelling the mechanism underling complex collective behaviours and could potentially provide bio-inspired solutions for challenging problems in swarm robotics.