FEMTO-ST Institute, Computer Science Department (DISC), Optimization Mobility NetworkIng team (OMNI), CNRS, Univ. Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Montbéliard, France.

The part of the FEMTO-ST/DISC/OMNI team working on the programmable matter project, is composed of 8 permanent researchers and is leading the programmable matter project.

OMNI is conducting research in the conception of the hardware modules composing the programmable matter and on the computer science and networking parts.

Regarding the conception of modules we are proposing new geometry to tackle the difficult problem of the module movement and we build bigger size modules called the Blinky Blocks. Concerning the computer science and networking parts, we are investigating new ways of programming the modules, studying distributed algorithms (self-assembly, self-reconfiguration, centrality and synchronization) and new way to communicate between modules using wireless transmission in the TeraHertz bandwidth.‍

Direction 1: Conception of Modules

The micro-robots composing PM must be able to stick to each other and to move around each other. However, designing the shape of these micro-robots is a complex problem as there are numerous constraints to respect. We design different geometry to answer these constraint and to build programmable matter.

Direction 2: Distributed Algorithms

Coordination of PM poses significant algorithmic issues and open new opportunities in distributed algorithms. We identified and implemented different building blocks, centrality-based leader election, time synchronization and self-reconfiguration.

Direction 3: Self-reconfiguration algorithms

Self-reconfiguration or shape shifting consist in changing the shape made by a modular robot. We proposed different distributed algorithms to solve this problem for different kinds of robots (sliding cubes, cylinders, spheres) or different kinds of parameters (with or without map and coordinates, polymer sculpting).

Direction 4: Simulation Environment

We are developing the VisibleSim simulator which is a discrete-event simulator for modular robots. Within VisibleSim, distributed algorithms are really executed in a simulated environment which ensures maximal accuracy of the results.

VisibleSim supports a variety of different modular robotic systems of the PM project.

Direction 5: Hardware Design

Together with TechPower Electronics, we are building the next generation of Blinky Blocks, a modular distributed execution environment composed of centimeter-size blocks that are attached to each other using magnets. Each block can sense through a microphone and an inertial measurement unit and act playing sounds or displaying colors.

Direction 6: Nano-Wireless Communications