Skip to content

Toward Controllable Morphogenesis in Large Robot Swarms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number8755393
Pages (from-to)3386-3393
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jul 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Jun 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jul 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Oct 2019


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.

    Research areas

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

Download statistics

No data available



  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via IEEE at Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 4.01 MB, PDF document


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups