The future is now! Researchers over at the Wyss Institute and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, or SEAS have made public their most recent and impressive creation: autonomous robots that take simple orders to rearrange themselves into predetermined and highly complex shapes.
This study which introduces these amazing little robots was published in the August issue of Science. Kilobots are actually a swarm that is comprised of 1,024 robots. Each of the robots is quite small and only measures a few centimeters across; each of them has two motors inside which allow it to slide on surfaces.
They have three very thin legs and they work together like a team of tiny creatures to perform complex behaviors, such as forming shapes and more.
This behavior that has been implemented in them is not new in nature. Ants work together to form complex objects, such as bridges, to get from one place to another to avoid drowning. Individual human cells also arrange into forming organisms and body parts, so it was only a matter of time before scientists created robots that did the same thing.
This particular creation is a major breakthrough in the field of collective artificial intelligence and the implications of this discovery aren’t yet fully understood.
The Kilobots work together when a command is sent to them by a computer through an infrared light. Let’s say that the command we are giving the Kilobots is to create the letter L. The moment they receive the command, they start communicating with each other through light signals and they start organizing themselves into the letter L. The origin of a coordinate system is marked by only four robots. These robots show a 2D image to the rest of the robots and are told to reproduce it. Quite simple sounding, isn’t it? But there is nothing simple about these Kilobots.
Although they use primitive methods of communication and shape formation, they’re not primitive. The great thing about the Kilobots is that after the initial command has been given, there is no need for any further intervention from humans or computers.
They’re so smart that they are even capable of fixing their own mistakes: if too many robots are cluttered together or if a robot falls from its desired positions, the robots that are close ones in need will help them fix the issues.
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