Swarmanoid communication


The design of the communication system for the swarmanoid is a complex enterprise. Communication is important to regulate the activities of possibly heterogeneous groups, and to achieve the coordination of the swarmanoid as a whole.

When designing the communication system, some important aspects need to be taken into account:

  • the expected role of communication: we identified three possible roles that communication can have within the swarmanoid: (i) information exchange, (ii) behaviour manipulation and (iii) entrainment, i.e., continuous bidirectional interactions. Identifying the role of communication in the achievement of a given goal is particularly important to devise the correct control structures and communication modalities. For example, in case the role of communication is identified as behaviour manipulation (e.g., an eye-bot that instructs the foot-bots on the position of an item to retrieve), a monodirectional communication channel is sufficient and should be preferred over a bi-directional channel. On the contrary, in order to synchronise the activities of a group, a bi-directional channel is required.
  • the design methodology: The design methodology as well has a bearing on the selection of the correct communication modaliyty. We identified mainly two possible methodologies: (i) behaviour based techniques and (ii) evolutionary learning techniques. When a behaviour based technique is to be used, explicit and highly informative signals are generally preferred. For example, signals that encode a preferential direction can be efficiently exploited by a human designer that can directly decipher the information encoded into the signal. On the contrary, when artificial evolution is in charge of shaping the communication, simple global signals can be efficiently exploited.
  • the hardware constraints: Hardware constraints constitute another important aspect to be taken into account. Depending on the task to be performed and on the expected role of communication, some device may be more appropriate than others. However, the choice of the communication device may constrain some of the dimensions of the communication, and may also require some particular control mechanism.
The above asepcts influence the possible dimensions on which the communication channel can vary. We propose four dimensions that encompass different communication features:
  1. cardinality: the number of individuals addressed by an emitted signal (e.g., one-to-one vs. one-to-all communication).
  2. expressivity: the amount of information that can be reliably transmitted over the communication channel.
  3. spatiality: the range and directionality of the communication signals (e.g., local vs global communication).
  4. modality: the quality of the interaction between the communicating agents (e.g., implicit vs. explicit, direct vs. indirect communication).
In conclusion, when designing the communication system, the important aspects to take into account are (i) the expected role of communication, (ii) the design methodology and (iii) the hardware constraints. All these aspects have a bearing on the four dimensions of communication discussed above, so that different solutions may be explored within the degrees of freedom not constrained by the above experimental choices.

Swarmanoid project started
on October 1, 2006
The project terminated
on September 30, 2010
Last modified:
November 05, 2007. 14:54:56 pm
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