Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

3D simulator: design and implementation of a 3D robotic simulator for swarm robotics applications

Swarm-bot3D is a 3D dynamics simulator of our multi-agent system of cooperating robots, based on the SDK Vortex toolkit (Critical Mass Labs, Canada,, which provides realistic simulations of dynamics and collisions of rigid bodies in 3D. Swarm-bot3D provides s-bot models with the functionalities available on the real s-bots. It can simulate different sensor devices such as IR proximity sensors, an omni-directional camera, an inclinometer, sound, and light sensors.

A fundamental feature of the Swarm-bot3D simulator is that it provides robot simulation modules at different levels of detail. In particular, it provides a hierarchy of four s-bot reference models with increasing levels of detail. The less detailed models have been employed to speed up the process of designing neural controllers through evolutionary algorithms. The most detailed models have been employed to validate the evolved controllers before porting them on real hardware. The advantages of such a simulation environment are multiple:

- it works as an aiding tool for accurately predicting 3D kinematics and dynamics of a single s-bot in a swarm-bot;
- it has been employed to evaluate possible new options for hardware parts;
- it represents a "plastic" world model which allows the design of new experimental set-ups in 3D;
- it has been employed to quickly evaluate new distributed control ideas before porting them to the real hardware.

Furthermore, the simulator provides on-line interactive control during simulation, useful for rapid prototyping of new control algorithms. Dynamic model switching is an included feature which allows to change the robot representation model in real-time. This allows a user to switch between a coarse and a detailed level of simulation model to improve simulation performance at any time.

Swarm-bot3D allows to handle a group of robots either as independent units or in a swarm-bot configuration, which can be thought of as a graph, in which each node represents a connected s-bot. The connections can be created and released dynamically at simulation time. Connections may be of a rigid nature giving to the resulting structure the solidity of a whole entity.

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