Best paper award at ANTS 2018

31 October 2018
Black model of an ant

The DiODe team, together with Masters student Anna Font-Llenas, won the Best Paper Award of ANTS 2018 for their paper ‘Quality-sensitive foraging by a robot swarm through virtual pheromone trails’.

Two articles at the ANTS 2018 conference

10 July 2018

We've just published two papers in the Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Swarm Intelligence (ANTS 2018) which will be held in Rome on 29–31 October 2018.

The paper ‘Quality-sensitive foraging by a robot swarm through virtual pheromone trails’ by Anna Font Llenas, M Salah Talamali, Xu Xu, James Marshall, and Andreagiovanni Reina showcases the functioning of ARK, our new super-cool infrastructure of augmented reality for Kilobots.

Check out the video below!

The paper ‘Simulating Kilobots within ARGoS: models and experimental validation’ by Carlo Pinciroli, M Salah Talamali, Andreagiovanni Reina, James Marshall and Vito Trianni proposes a new plugin for the ARGoS simulator that allows users to simulate Kilobots in a fast and realistic way, to use the same code in simulation and on robots, and to simulate the ARK infrastructure along with the Kilobots.

No War: a robot film

27 June 2018

Giovanni co-ordinated a team of University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University students who produced a new short film using our Kilobots. This was premiered at the Sheffield Robotics Showcase on 26 June and is available to watch on the DiODe Project You Tube channel.

DiODe talks at the ECMTB 2018

12 June 2018

James, Thomas, Giovanni and Aldo will present four research outcomes from DiODe at the 11th European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology (ECMTB 2018) which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 23–27 July 2018.

Conference on Collective Behaviour – Trieste, May 2018

17 May 2018

James Marshall and Andreagiovanni Reina gave talks at the Conference on Collective Behaviour held at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste.

Below, you can watch the talks from Giovanni and James. The list of all talks is available here.

Psychophysical laws and the superorganism

19 March 2018

Looking at honeybees in a colony as if they were neurons in a brain could help understand the basic mechanisms of human behaviour. A bee colony can be considered as a single superorganism, composed of tens of thousands of bees, which displays a coordinated response to external stimuli.

Our recent paper, published in Scientific Reports and authored by Andreagiovanni Reina, Thomas Bose, Vito Trianni, and James Marshall, has shown that honeybee colonies might respond to stimuli in the same way other organisms, such as humans, do.

The superorganism response is the result of interactions between individual bees; finding which type of interactions generate brain-like responses helps researchers to identify the general mechanisms generating these responses, and may ultimately lead to a better understanding of our brain.

Reina, A, Bose, T, Trianni, V, Marshall, J A R (2018) ‘Psychophysical laws and the superorganism’, Scientific Reports 8: p. 4387.

Article in Trends in Ecology and Evolution

30 August 2017

James’ article on individual confidence in collective decisions, with Gavin Brown (Manchester) and Andy Radford (Bristol), is the cover featured article for the September issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

TREE opinion on confidence and collective decision-making

27 July 2017

A new opinion on individual confidence and collective decision-making is in press in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, authored by James together with Andy Radford (Bristol) and Gavin Brown (Manchester).

The opinion argues for the consideration of subjective confidence and its influence on communication within collectively-deciding groups. The opinion also draws links between confidence by individually-optimal decision-makers, and the optimal confidence-based weighting scheme for group decisions.

Marshall, J A R, Brown, G, Radford, A N (2017) ‘Individual confidence-weighting and group decision-making’, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, in press.

Collective behaviour minisymposium

10 July 2017

Thomas, James and Giovanni co-organised a minisymposium on collective behaviour and decision-making, at the 2017 Mathematical Models in Ecology and Evolution conference in London.

The speakers covered a diverse range of topics, from naming games to building the Matrix for fish. The full list of speakers and titles is as follows:

  • Andrea Baronchelli (City University London) – The spontaneous emergence of conventions.

  • Andreagiovanni Reina (University of Sheffield) – A model of the best-of-N nest-site selection process in honeybees.

  • Arianna Bottinelli (Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics) – The breakdown of coordination and the emergence of dangerous collective motions in high-density crowds.

  • Colin Torney (University of Glasgow) – Cues and collective decision-making in migrating ungulates.

  • Renaud Bastien (University of Konstanz) – A simple model of collective behaviour driven by the visual field.

Research highlight in Nature Physics

7 June 2017

Our recent Physical Review E paper about a model describing house-hunting honeybees has been selected as Research Highlight in Nature Physics.

Editor’s suggestion in Physical Review E

2 June 2017

Our recent paper on decision-making in honeybees has been selected to be an editor’s suggestion in Physical Review E. The journal prominently lists a small number of Physical Review E papers that the editors and referees find of particular interest, importance, or clarity. Read the paper.

Snowbird minisymposium on collective decision-making

21 May 2017

James and project collaborator Naomi Leonard (Princeton) co-organised a minisymposium on ‘Excitability, feedback and collective decision-making dynamics’ at the 2017 SIAM Meeting on Dynamical Systems, in Snowbird.

Thomas contributed one of four talks on decision-making dynamics, exploring the roles of excitability and feedback in neural and collective decision systems. The speakers were:

  • Excitability and feedback in regulation of foraging harvester ants – Renato Pagliara, Princeton University, USA; Deborah M Gordon, Stanford University, USA; Naomi E Leonard, Princeton University, USA.

  • Models of value-sensitive decision-making – Thomas Bose, Andreagiovanni Reina and James A R Marshall, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.

  • Coupled drift-diffusion model and the speed-accuracy trade-off in collective decision-making – Vaibhav Srivastava, Michigan State University, USA.

  • Evidence accumulation in dynamic environments – Zachary P Kilpatrick, University of Colorado Boulder, USA; Adrian Radillo and Kresimir Josic, University of Houston, USA; Alan Veliz-Cuba, University of Dayton, USA.

Conference details

ARK: Augmented Reality for Kilobots

4 May 2017

We completed the ARK system – Augmented Reality for Kilobots – that allows Kilobot robots to operate in a virtual environment!

The system architecture is open-source (available at and published in the journal article:

Reina, A, Cope, J, Nikolaidis, E, Marshall, J A R and Sabo, C (2017) ‘ARK: Augmented Reality for Kilobots’, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, in press, 2017.

The video above showcases the functionalities of ARK through three demos. In demo A, ARK automatically assigns unique IDs to a swarm of 100 Kilobots. Demo B shows the possibility of employing ARK for the automatic positioning of 50 Kilobots, which is one of the typical preliminary operations in swarm robotics experiments.

These operations are typically tedious and time consuming when done manually. ARK saves researchers’ time and makes operating large swarms considerably easier. Additionally, automating the operation gives more accurate control of the robots’ start positions and removes undesired biases in comparative experiments.

Demo C shows a simple foraging scenario where 50 Kilobots collect material from a source location and deposit it at a destination. The robots are programmed to pick up one virtual flower inside the source area (green flower field), carry it to the destination (yellow nest) and deposit the flower there.

When performing actions in the virtual environments, the robot signals by lighting its LED in blue. When picking up a virtual flower from the source, the robot reduces the source’s size for the rest of the robots (by reducing the area’s diameter by 1cm). Similarly when a robot deposits flowers at its destination, the area increases by 1 cm.

This demo shows that robots can perceive (and navigate) a virtual gradient, can modify the virtual environment by moving material from one location to another, and can autonomously decide when to change the virtual environment that they sense (either the source or the destination).

More information on the ARK page

Minisymposium on collective behaviour and decision-making

1 May 2017

The DiODe team organises a minisymposium at the Mathematical Models in Ecology and Evolution conference taking place in London this July. In this minisymposium, recent progress on collective behaviour and decision-making will be discussed by a selection of excellent speakers.

Two DiODe papers accepted

1 May 2017

Two new papers with results of the DiODe project have been accepted recently. The review article entitled ‘Collective decision-making’, which appeared in the journal Current Opinion in Behavioural Sciences, summarises recent progress in natural and artificial collective decision-making.

The other paper entitled ‘A model of the best-of-N nest-site selection process in honeybees’ has been accepted for publication in Physical Review E and generalises in a theoretical study the nest site selection of honeybees to three and more options.

New PhD student joins DiODe Project

26 April 2017

Salah Talamali joins the DiODe team in the beginning of May 2017 to investigate heterogeneities in collective decision-making. His PhD project will involve the development of decision making algorithms and their implementation on the Kilobot platform, bringing the state of the art of artificial decision-making closer to studying real-world scenarios using a swarm of robots.