Looking for ideas regarding “food” for my robot swarm

I am a hobbyist working with arduino to build a small robot swarm that mimics animal behaviour. The robots will be very similar in structure to the prior generation here. This time they will probably be slightly larger and use an ultrasonic sensor, compass module and a number of IR recievers and diodes to communicate.

One of the core behaviours I would like them to show is looking for food. I would like a simple inanimate object or thing that could operate as a stand in. Ideally they would drive until they happen to find some food, they notice and the food goes away.

Ideal requirements:

  • Simple to make (so I could scatter dozens around).

  • Able for the robots to notice in very close proximity. e.g. with light sensor on floor.

  • Able to functionally disappear with no or minimal effort by the robots.

  • Not interfere with the robots’ movement or other functions.

Ideas I have had so far:

  • Ideal would be some kind of black dot on a light surface but it needs to be able to disappear.

  • I had considered using dark paper with a paperclip and pick them up with a magnet but I don’t want to interfere with the compass module and they may be limited in how many they can carry.

  • Some kind of small electronic device that turns off when they come across it.

  • Some kind of small mechanical device that folds flat when they come across it.

  • A destructible object like a candle flame or balloon that they can extinguish (bit messy).

  • A more virtual object like a laser dot projection that can be turned on and off (difficult).

Any further suggestions/ideas would be greatly appreciated.

submitted by /u/Henipah
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