The canonical amoebot model: Algorithms and concurrency control

Joshua J. Daymude, Andréa W. Richa, Christian Scheideler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

10 Scopus citations


The amoebot model abstracts active programmable matter as a collection of simple computational elements called amoebots that interact locally to collectively achieve tasks of coordination and movement. Since its introduction (SPAA 2014), a growing body of literature has adapted its assumptions for a variety of problems; however, without a standardized hierarchy of assumptions, precise systematic comparison of results under the amoebot model is difficult. We propose the canonical amoebot model, an updated formalization that distinguishes between core model features and families of assumption variants. A key improvement addressed by the canonical amoebot model is concurrency. Much of the existing literature implicitly assumes amoebot actions are isolated and reliable, reducing analysis to the sequential setting where at most one amoebot is active at a time. However, real programmable matter systems are concurrent. The canonical amoebot model formalizes all amoebot communication as message passing, leveraging adversarial activation models of concurrent executions. Under this granular treatment of time, we take two complementary approaches to concurrent algorithm design. Using hexagon formation as a case study, we first establish a set of sufficient conditions for algorithm correctness under any concurrent execution, embedding concurrency control directly in algorithm design. We then present a concurrency control framework that uses locks to convert amoebot algorithms that terminate in the sequential setting and satisfy certain conventions into algorithms that exhibit equivalent behavior in the concurrent setting. Together, the canonical amoebot model and these complementary approaches to concurrent algorithm design open new directions for distributed computing research on programmable matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication35th International Symposium on Distributed Computing, DISC 2021
EditorsSeth Gilbert
PublisherSchloss Dagstuhl- Leibniz-Zentrum fur Informatik GmbH, Dagstuhl Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)9783959772105
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021
Event35th International Symposium on Distributed Computing, DISC 2021 - Virtual, Freiburg, Germany
Duration: Oct 4 2021Oct 8 2021

Publication series

NameLeibniz International Proceedings in Informatics, LIPIcs
ISSN (Print)1868-8969


Conference35th International Symposium on Distributed Computing, DISC 2021
CityVirtual, Freiburg


  • Concurrency
  • Distributed algorithms
  • Programmable matter
  • Self-organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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