A Thousand Tiny Robots Swarming Into Shapes Like Intelligent Insects

Since the first crude automatons running on clockwork mechanisms, mankind has been working to build the perfect artificial copy of ourselves for centuries. But what's a more accurate recreation of a human? A robot made of various components and wires all cobbled together? Or one made of billions of tiny robots all working together like the atoms that make up everything around us?


Researchers at Harvard University, clearly inspired by the idea that one day life can be recreated using countless tiny robots, have been developing and building their Kilobots en masse for years now. Exemplifying the idea of team work, the Kilobots started off with just twenty-five units all working together to accomplish a task, then a hundred, and now a thousand.

Controlled by sophisticated swarm software and built-in infrared sensors on each unit, the Kilobots are limited in their functionality on an individual basis. But when they start working as a team, using simple rules for moving around and interacting with each other, they're able to accomplish more significant tasks. Of course, forming the shape of a simple star might not be the official start of artificial intelligent life, but what we're seeing here are some important baby steps as man strives to finally build the perfect robot butler. [YouTube via IEEE Spectrum]



It seemed that there were 3 things wrong with the way they programmed these bots to do this task.

1. They had the bots follow a path clockwise around the existing structure starting from the furthest distance of travel from the desired structure. Like Daffy duck plotting the course to planet x.

2. They had the bots follow a path in serial instead of all moving together in parallel...If the transformers did that, it would have taken the entirety of a Michael bay film to transform...

3. It looked like the bots formed a static shape at the end and did not allow for self adjustment to optimize the resultant shape into a more refined star pattern.