Thousand-Robot Swarm Created
One of the many interesting phenomena in Nature is swarming, whereby individual organisms, like ants, cells, and fish, will act together to achieve something no single individual could. This behavior is something many have been trying to replicate with robots, as a means to improve their effectiveness and to test their AI. Researchers at Harvard University have recently created the first thousand-robot swarm and gotten it to form human-specified shapes.
The swarm consists of 1024 robots called Kilobots, for obvious reasons, and each of these devices are just a few centimeters wide and stand on three thin, rigid legs. Two vibrating motors are used to get the robots sliding over a surface while infrared light is used for communication. This simple design kept the robots cheap, but also increased the chance of errors, but fortunately the algorithm driving them is smart enough to detect and actually correct the errors. In fact the algorithm has been proven to allow the robots to complete the task given to it. To get the robots started, they are given the image to recreate and four are then used to designate the origin of the image. Next the arbitrary mass of Kilobots starts moving one by one along the edge, until they reach the next point to fill in the image.
This is the first time a swarm consisting of a thousand robots has been tested and is an important milestone for distributed robotics. In the future we may see robots swarms being used for cleanup, rescue efforts, and even as chauffeurs as self-driving cars would be an example of distributed robotics.
Source: Harvard University