Hard Tasks for Weak Robots: The Role of Common Knowledge in Pattern Formation by Autonomous Mobile Robots

  • Paola Flocchini
  • Giuseppe Prencipe
  • Nicola Santoro
  • Peter Widmayer
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 1741)


In this paper we aim at an understanding of the fundamental algorithmic limitations on what a set of autonomous mobile robots can or cannot achieve. We study a hard task for a set of weak robots. The task is for the robots in the plane to form any arbitrary pattern that is given in advance. The robots are weak in several aspects. They are anonymous; they cannot explicitly communicate with each other, but only observe the positions of the others; they cannot remember the past; they operate in a very strong form of asynchronicity. We show that the tasks that such a system of robots can perform depend strongly on their common knowledge about their environment, i.e., the readings of their environment sensors.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    T. Balch and R. C. Arkin. Motor Schema-based Formation Control for Multiagent Robot Teams. ICMAS, pages 10–16, 1995.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    E. H. Durfee. Blissful Ignorance: Knowing Just Enough to Coordinate Well. IC-MAS, pages 406–413, 1995.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    P. Flocchini, G. Prencipe, N. Santoro, E. Welzl, and P. Widmayer. Point Formation for Oblivious Robots. manuscript, in preparation, 1999.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    P. Flocchini, G. Prencipe, N. Santoro, and P. Widmayer. Hard Tasks for Weak Robots. Technical Report TR-99-07, School of Comp. Sc. Carleton Univ., 1999.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    M. J. Mataric. Designing Emergent Behaviors: From Local Interactions to Collective Intelligence. From Animals to Animats 2, pages 423–441, 1993.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    L. E. Parker. Adaptive Action Selection for Cooperative Agent Teams. Proc. Second Int’l. Conf. on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, pages 442–450, 1992.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    I. Suzuki and M. Yamashita. Formation and Agreement Problems for Anonymous Mobile Robots. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Conference on Communication, Control and Computing, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, pages 93–102, 1993.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    I. Suzuki and M. Yamashita. Distributed Anonymous Mobile Robots-Formation and Agreement Problems. Proc. Third Colloq. on Struc. Information and Communication Complexity (SIROCCO), pages 313–330, 1996.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    I. Suzuki and M. Yamashita. Distributed Anonymous Mobile Robots: Formation of Geometric Patterns. Siam J. Comput., 28(4):1347–1363, 1999.zbMATHCrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paola Flocchini
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Prencipe
    • 2
  • Nicola Santoro
    • 3
  • Peter Widmayer
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Information, Technology and EngineeringUniversity of OttawaOttawa
  2. 2.Dipartimento di InformaticaUniversitá di PisaPisa
  3. 3.School of Computer ScienceCarleton UniversityCarleton
  4. 4.Theoretische InformatikETH Zürich

Personalised recommendations