Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

'Flashmob' robots swarm themselves into shape
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 14, 2014

A swarm of 1000 robots gathers at Harvard
Cambridge, Mass. (UPI) Aug 15, 2013 - One thousand small and extremely simple robots, each only a few centimeters across and balancing on three tiny legs, assemble autonomously -- the world's first robot flash-mob. Asked to form a "K" or "star-shape" by their programmers and they obey, slowly and seamlessly marching into position.

Researchers built and programmed the so-called kilobots to demonstrate the ways simple organisms (or machines) can combine to form impressively complex systems -- like cells that organize to form organs or ant colonies that efficiently locate and retrieve food or built elaborate shelters from dirt and sand.

The self-organizing swarm or kilobats was designed by a team of researchers lead by Radhika Nagpal, an engineering and applied sciences professor at Harvard University's Wyss Institute.

"The beauty of biological systems is that they are elegantly simple -- and yet, in large numbers, accomplish the seemingly impossible," explained Nagpal. "At some level, you no longer even see the individuals; you just see the collective as an entity to itself."

Once the robots are programmed with an initial algorithm they are completely autonomous, able to follow simple commands and form specified shapes by communicating with their neighbors. On their own, their clumsy little machines, but when they cooperate they are much more efficient.

Nagpal says this is the way of the future.

"Increasingly, we're going to see large numbers of robots working together, whether it's hundreds of robots cooperating to achieve environmental cleanup or a quick disaster response, or millions of self-driving cars on our highways," she said. "Understanding how to design 'good' systems at that scale will be critical."

Other researchers are impressed too. Roderich Gross, a researcher at the University of Sheffield, told National Geographic that he was so impressed he bought 900 of the mini-bots to use in his own experiments.

"This is not only the largest swarm of robots in the world but also an excellent test bed, allowing us to validate collective algorithms in practice," Gross said.

Nagpal's work was assisted by Harvard researchers Mike Rubenstein and Alejandro Cornejo. Their efforts are detailed in the latest edition of the journal Science.

Without any helping hand, more than 1,000 simple robots the size of votive candles can swarm themselves into complex shape like a star or the letter K, US researchers said Thursday.

The project is the latest breakthrough in robotics from a team at Harvard University that has also created robots inspired by termites.

Called Kilobots, these 1,024 simple machines were designed to act like bees and ants, using vibration motors to glide across surfaces and infrared lights to communicate with each other.

"We are especially inspired by systems where individuals can self-assemble together to solve problems," said Radhika Nagpal, Fred Kavli professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

The project, described in the US journal Science, builds on past advances by including more robots. Previous researchers used dozens or 100s.

Because of the simple design, the robots can only communicate with others that are less than the distance of three robots away, but they need no intervention once they get their pre-programmed order.

Just what they may be used for someday is not known yet.

But whether they act like a school of fish, or an army of ants on tasks like environmental cleanup or disaster response, researchers say they believe the bots could one day be a boon to society.

"Biological collectives involve enormous numbers of cooperating entities -- whether you think of cells or insects or animals -- that together accomplish a single task that is a magnitude beyond the scale of any individual," said lead author Michael Rubenstein, a research associate at Harvard SEAS and the Wyss Institute.


Related Links
All about the robots on Earth and beyond!

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Robots to up-end the world of work, for good and bad
Washington (AFP) Aug 06, 2014
Robots and artificially intelligent devices will take over many jobs now done by people, and experts are divided as to whether their spread will do human society more good than harm. The Pew Research Center said experts see a growing role for self-driving cars, delivery drones, robotic workers, smartphone-based assistants and even algorithmic journalism by 2025. But they are divided on w ... read more

China to test recoverable moon orbiter

China to send orbiter to moon and back

August supermoon will be brightest this year

Manned Moon Mission to Cost Russia $2.8 Bln

Opportunity Heads to 'Marathon Valley'

NASA Mars Curiosity Rover: Two Years and Counting on Red Planet

Robotic Rock Climbers Could Uncover Clues to Mars' Past

Russia To Construct Landing Pad For ExoMars Mission

Study Compiles Data on Problem of Sleep Deprivation in Astronauts

Aerojet Completes CST-100 Work for Commercial Crew Work

Introducing this year's underground astronauts

American Spaceports

More Tasks for China's Moon Mission

China's Circumlunar Spacecraft Unmasked

China to launch HD observation satellite this year

Lunar rock collisions behind Yutu damage

ATV completes final automated docking

NASA's Space Station Fix-It Demo for Satellites Gets Hardware for 2.0 Update

ESA's cargo vessel ready for space delivery

Robonaut Upgrades, Spacewalk Preps and Cargo Ops for ISS Crew

Ariane 5 is readied for Arianespace's September launch with MEASAT-3b and Optus 10

ATK Passes Critical Design Review for NASA's Space Launch System Booster

Russia to Decide on Future of Sea Launch Project by End of 2014

SpaceX launches AsiaSat8 into orbit via Falcon 9 rocket

Rotation of Planets Influences Habitability

Planet-like object may have spent its youth as hot as a star

Young binary star system may form planets with weird and wild orbits

Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets

Learning from origami to design new materials

BAE Systems touts its Artisan radar system

Association of satellite operators joins program for space safety

USN Moderates CubeSat RF Communications Standards Meeting

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.