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10 Feb 2022

OpenSwarm: An event-driven embedded operating system for miniature robots

Abstract:

This paper presents OpenSwarm, a lightweight easy-to-use open-source operating system. To our knowledge, it is the first operating system designed for and deployed on miniature robots. OpenSwarm operates directly on a robot’s microcontroller. It has a memory footprint of 1 kB RAM and 12 kB ROM. OpenSwarm enables a robot to execute multiple processes simultaneously. It provides a hybrid kernel that natively supports preemptive and cooperative scheduling, making it suitable for both computationally intensive and swiftly responsive robotics tasks. OpenSwarm provides hardware abstractions to rapidly develop and test platform-independent code. We show how OpenSwarm can be used to solve a canonical problem in swarm robotics—clustering a collection of dispersed objects. We report experiments, conducted with five e-puck mobile robots, that show that an OpenSwarm implementation performs as good as a hardware-near implementation. The primary goal of OpenSwarm is to make robots with severely constrained hardware more accessible, which may help such systems to be deployed in real-world applications.

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