Art and Engineering Inspired by Swarm Robotics
Doctor of Philosophy
Swarm robotics has the potential to combine the power of the hive with the sensibility of the individual to solve non-traditional problems in mechanical, industrial, and architectural engineering and to develop exquisite art beyond the ken of most contemporary painters, sculptors, and architects. The goal of this thesis is to apply swarm robotics to the sublime and the quotidian to achieve this synergy between art and engineering. The potential applications of collective behaviors, manipulation, and self-assembly are quite extensive. We will concentrate our research on three topics: fractals, stability analysis, and building an enhanced multi-robot simulator. Self-assembly of swarm robots into fractal shapes can be used both for artistic purposes (fractal sculptures) and in engineering applications (fractal antennas). Stability analysis studies whether distributed swarm algorithms are stable and robust either to sensing or to numerical errors, and tries to provide solutions to avoid unstable robot configurations. Our enhanced multi-robot simulator supports this research by providing real-time simulations with customized parameters, and can become as well a platform for educating a new generation of artists and engineers. The goal of this thesis is to use techniques inspired by swarm robotics to develop a computational framework accessible to and suitable for both artists and engineers. The scope we have in mind for art and engineering is unlimited. Modern museums, stadium roofs, dams, solar power plants, radio telescopes, star networks, fractal sculptures, fractal antennas, fractal floral arrangements, smooth metallic railroad tracks, temporary utilitarian enclosures, permanent modern architectural designs, guard structures, op art, and communication networks can all be built from the bodies of the swarm.