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Mini-Robots Programmed To Behave Like A Swarm: 1000 'Autonomous' Robots Cooperate Like An Ant Colony — Are You Nervous Yet?

Screen capture from YouTube video.
Screen capture from YouTube video.
By Michelle Starr
Each individual Kilobot doesn't look like much: just a few centimetres in diameter, on three almost comical matchstick-like legs. Powered only by a pair of coin batteries, they move by vibrating, shuffling forward on those funny sticks.

The impressive part is what they can do together. In a swarm 1,024 robots strong, they can organise themselves into two-dimensional shapes, requiring only the initial information input -- the shape they are to form -- via infrared light.

'Self Organizing' Systems In A Thousand Kilobot 'Swarm'

The Kilobots -- the work of Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences computer science professor Radhika Nagpal and her team -- are based on the behaviours of biological swarms, and are designed to demonstrate that simple robots are capable of enacting complex behaviours en masse.

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


The way the Kilobots work is sheer genius in its simplicity. An initial set of instructions is beamed to the robots via infrared, after which they work autonomously, requiring no further human intervention.

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