Ant-inspired sorting by robots: the importance of initial clustering

C Melhuish, AB Sendova-Franks, S Scholes, I Horsfield, F Welsby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


For engineers the prospect of scalable collective robot systems is very appealing. Such systems typically adopt a decentralized approach in their control and coordination mechanism, which employs local sensing and action as well as limited communication. Under these constraints and informed by research on Temnothorax ants, two puck sorting algorithms were tested in a combination of simulation and with real robots. Both algorithms employed puck density as a cue. Only the overall local density, irrespective of puck type, was found to be required which offers the prospect for a more simple mechanism than had been previously considered. For one algorithm, this density cue was used both for picking up and dropping items and is, therefore, referred to as the ‘double density’ algorithm (DD). In the second algorithm, density was used as a cue only for picking up. Depositing an item was governed by the distance travelled which was specific to the type of item being carried. This was referred to as the ‘single density’ algorithm (SD). Unlike the DD it was found that, for the SD, the clustering of items is a necessary pre-condition for sorting. Results from ant experiments also showed that sorting is carried out in two phases: a primary clustering episode followed by a spacing phase. This strongly suggests that clustering may also be a precondition for spacing in ants.
Translated title of the contributionAnt-inspired sorting by robots: the importance of initial clustering
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235 - 242
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Volume3 (7)
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Royal Society


Dive into the research topics of 'Ant-inspired sorting by robots: the importance of initial clustering'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this