News / Science & Technology

Tiny Robots 'Swarm' Themselves Into Shapes

Several kilobots from a swarm of 1,000 simple, but collaborative, robots are seen in this photo from Harvard.
Several kilobots from a swarm of 1,000 simple, but collaborative, robots are seen in this photo from Harvard.

Related Articles

Video 'Origami Robot' Folds Itself to Life

Scientists at Harvard University's Microrobotics Lab are taking the art of paper folding to a new dimension with origami inspired designs that robots can follow to assemble themselves

Scientists have created an army of small robots capable of taking the shape of various objects.
 
They’re called “Kilobots.”
 
But before that name causes you conjure up images of a Terminator-like killer robots able to morph into nearly anything, the “flash mob” of these 1,024 tiny, minimalist robots have only so far morphed into simple shapes like a starfish, the letter K and a wrench.
 
The various shapes the robots take are drawn on a computer and then sent to each robot via an infrared light.
 
Once the information is delivered the robots begin to organize themselves into the shape, each following the edge of the group until it reaches a desired location, each knowing its position relative to the others.
 
They also self-correct.

Significant breakthrough

It takes the robots hours to create the shape, because they move one at a time and not very quickly, said Harvard roboticist Mike Rubenstein.
 
Each component robot of the swarm is just a few centimeters across and is perched atop three legs that vibrate to give the robots locomotion. Each was hand-built and costs about $14, said Rubenstein.
 
While rudimentary in function, the Kilobots are a breakthrough. Harvard researchers say the kilobot represents “a significant milestone in the development of collective artificial intelligence.”
 
“If a traffic jam forms or a robot moves off-course—errors that become much more common in a large group—nearby robots sense the problem and cooperate to fix it,” according to a Harvard news statement.
 
Prior to the Kilobots, robot swarms had generally been comprised of no more than 100 individual bots. The Harvard group was able to incorporate so many individuals because “the Kilobots require no micromanagement or intervention once an initial set of instructions has been delivered.”

Robotic teams
 
There are many examples of this kind of behavior in the natural world. For example, ants can form bridges to cross difficult terrain.
 
Robot swarms are already among us. Online retailer Amazon, for example, uses robots to move items around its massive warehouses. Groups of robots also patrol the oceans, collecting various kinds of data.
 
“Increasingly, we’re going to see large numbers of robots working together, whether its hundreds of robots cooperating to achieve environmental cleanup or a quick disaster response, or millions of self-driving cars on our highways,” said Radhika Nagpal, a Harvard computer science professor in whose lab the robot was built. “Understanding how to design ‘good’ systems at that scale will be critical.”
 
While those applications are far off, for now, Rubenstein said the next step might be to create robots that can attach to one another in order to create a rigid structure.

Here's a video about the swarm of robots:

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs