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Brief Announcement: Shape Formation by Programmable Particles

Authors Giuseppe A. Di Luna, Paola Flocchini, Nicola Santoro, Giovanni Viglietta, Yukiko Yamauchi

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Giuseppe A. Di Luna
Paola Flocchini
Nicola Santoro
Giovanni Viglietta
Yukiko Yamauchi

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Giuseppe A. Di Luna, Paola Flocchini, Nicola Santoro, Giovanni Viglietta, and Yukiko Yamauchi. Brief Announcement: Shape Formation by Programmable Particles. In 31st International Symposium on Distributed Computing (DISC 2017). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 91, pp. 48:1-48:3, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2017)


Shape formation is a basic distributed problem for systems of computational mobile entities. Intensively studied for systems of autonomous mobile robots, it has recently been investigated in the realm of programmable matter. Namely, it has been studied in the geometric Amoebot model, where the anonymous entities, called particles, operate on a hexagonal tessellation of the plane, have constant memory, can only communicate with neighboring particles, and can only move from a grid node to an empty neighboring node; their activation is controlled by an adversarial scheduler. Recent investigations have shown how, starting from a well-structured configuration in which the particles form a (not necessarily complete) triangle, the particles can form a large class of shapes. This result has been established under several assumptions: agreement on the clockwise direction (i.e., chirality), a sequential activation schedule, and randomization. In this paper we provide a characterization of which shapes can be formed deterministically starting from any simply connected initial configuration of n particles. As a byproduct, if randomization is allowed, then any input shape can be formed from any initial (simply connected) shape by our algorithm, provided that n is large enough. Our algorithm works without chirality, proving that chirality is computationally irrelevant for shape formation. Furthermore, it works under a strong adversarial scheduler, not necessarily sequential. We also consider the complexity of shape formation both in terms of the number of rounds and the total number of moves performed by the particles executing a universal shape formation algorithm. We prove that our solution has a complexity of O(n^2) rounds and moves: this number of moves is also asymptotically optimal.
  • Shape formation
  • pattern formation
  • programmable matter
  • Amoebots
  • leader election
  • distributed algorithms
  • self-assembly


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