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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid