Toward Controllable Morphogenesis in Large Robot Swarms

Daniel Carrillo Zapata*, James Sharpe, Alan F T Winfield, Luca Giuggioli, Sabine Hauert

*Corresponding author for this work

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

8 Citations (Scopus)
448 Downloads (Pure)


Morphogenetic engineering aims to achieve functional, self-organized but controllable structures in human-designed systems. Controlling the structures is crucial if they are to be used for real-world applications. Building on previous work on morphogenesis, in this letter, we present a new algorithm, with controllability at its core, for large swarms of simple robots where morphogenesis occurs without self-localization, predefined map, or preprogrammed robots. Controllability is achieved through three parameters that influence the morphogenesis process and create a rich morphospace of quantitatively different shapes. The algorithm was tested in over 2000 simulations and three times on real swarms of 300 kilobots. Swarms were able to grow shapes using only local communication, and regrow missing parts when manually damaged. Extra simulations also demonstrated swarms adapting to an obstacle in the environment by getting around it. Results were compared with our previous work on morphogenesis to show how controllability allowed richer shapes. This letter represents a step into designing a controllable morphogenesis algorithm toward more functional swarms for real-world applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8755393
Pages (from-to)3386-3393
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Mathematics Research Group


  • Kilobots
  • Morphogenetic engineering
  • Swarms
  • Distributed Robot Systems
  • Cooperating Robots


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