Swarm Robotics is a relatively new theory based on swarm behavior seen in ant and bee colonies.  Researchers believe they can make small individual robots work toward a larger goal if the work involved is distributed.

At the University of Colorado at Boulder, Assistant Professor Nikoaus Correll and his team have created a robot which they plan to use to develop complex systems.

Nicknamed the “Droplet”, Correll’s ping-pong ball sized robots are rather simple machines. Each robot is capable of sensing both RGB and Infrared signals and can communicate with both analog and digital IR sensors.  To give it a little wiggle, the robots have a vibration motors which allow them a certain level of mobility. To tie the package together each “Droplet” is controlled by a low power Atmel XMega 128-A3 processor.

According to the UC Boulder, “Correll plans to use the Droplets to demonstrate self-assembly and swarm-intelligent behaviors such as pattern recognition, sensor-based motion and adaptive shape change. These behaviors could then be transferred to large swarms for water- or air-based tasks.”

If the processes and technology prove out, robots like the “Droplet” could find many potential uses.  Wherever there is need for cheap, lightweight or disposable robotic systems, swarm robotics may be the solution. Mining, weather sensing, infrastructure repair, and large scale construction could one day benefit from swarms of cheap robots operating towards a common goal.

Correll himself is optimistic about the value of this technology. ““Every living organism is made from a swarm of collaborating cells,” he said. “Perhaps someday, our swarms will colonize space where they will assemble habitats and lush gardens for future space explorers.”

Read More at UC Boulder

Images Courtesy of UC Boulder 

 

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