03.07.16 - 08.07.16, Seminar 16271

Algorithmic Foundations of Programmable Matter

Diese Seminarbeschreibung wurde vor dem Seminar auf unseren Webseiten veröffentlicht und bei der Einladung zum Seminar verwendet.


Programmable matter refers to a substance that has the ability to change its physical properties (shape, density, moduli, conductivity, optical properties, etc.) in a programmable fashion, based upon user input or autonomous sensing. The potential applications are endless, e.g., smart materials, autonomous monitoring and repair, or minimal invasive surgery. Thus, there is a high relevance of this topic to industry and society in general, and therefore a lot of research has been invested in the past decade to fabricate programmable matter. However, fabrication is only part of the story: without a proper understanding of how to program the matter, complex tasks such as minimal invasive surgery will be out of reach.

The aim of the Dagstuhl seminar is to bring together researchers from the algorithms community with selected experts from robotics and distributed systems in order to set a solid base for the development of models, technical solutions, and algorithms that can control programmable matter. Both communities will benefit from such a meeting for the following reasons:

  • Algorithmic work on programmable matter is still in its infancy. While passive models in which external forces are applied to program matter have already been investigated for more than a decade, active models in which the matter contains actuation mechanisms for reprogramming have emerged only recently and still need to be validated by realizing the proposed particles and performing experiments, which requires interactions with experts from distributed systems and robotics.
  • The distributed systems and robotics communities have already dealt with robotic swarms and modular robotics for a long time. However, so far no mechanisms are available that scale to hundreds or thousands of individual units. This is not just due to mechanical problems but also due to the lack of scalable algorithms, which require algorithms experts to be done right. Therefore, the seminar will not only gather a critical mass of people from the algorithms community in order to boost algorithmic research on programmable matter, but also make an effort to encourage collaborations between the algorithms community on one side and the distributed systems and robotics community on the other side.

For a fruitful and targeted discussion, the Dagstuhl seminar will focus on particularly relevant problems for programmable matter including (but not limited to) coating, shape formation, and bridging problems. Also, instead of just having talks in which participants present their previous related work, we plan to have survey talks and interdisciplinary working sessions.