Automata are autonomous, or self-operating, machines. In the world of automata computing, automata consist of computing nodes and connections configured to perform a computation, with the capability of many different automaton operating in parallel to process incoming data.
Automata networks can be massively parallel, enabling the creation of networks of individual automaton with at least one, possibly multiple, entry points that execute simultaneously.
Automata can be compared to traditional state machines; both are state-based, accepting input and transitioning to different states based on that input. Unlike traditional state machines, however, automata are flexible, easier to program, and are non-deterministic, which means more than one active state can occur at any given time.
Automata can also be compared to regular expressions. Any regular expression can be reduced to a deterministic finite state machine, and therefore comparisons can be made between automaton, state machines, and regular expressions.