UK & World News

  • 15 August 2014, 11:52

Robot Army: 1,000-Strong Swarm Organises Itself

A 1,000-strong robot army which can swarm into various different shapes on command has been developed by Harvard researchers.

The Kilobots display complex self-organising behaviour to arrange themselves in a variety of shapes, on a scale not seen before.

The robots measure just a few centimetres across, and use blinking infrared signals to communicate with each other.

They then use vibrations to move across a surface on their three tiny legs.

Professor Radhika Nagpal, from the Harvard School of Engineering, said: "The beauty of biological systems is that they are elegantly simple - and yet, in large numbers, accomplish the seemingly impossible.

"At some level you no longer even see the individuals; you just see the collective as an entity to itself."

None of the robots receive individual orders, or know their location.

Instead they work out the position and orientation of the other robots to carry out the shape-forming tasks.

Four "seed" robots start the formation off, and the other robots arrange themselves around them.

Similar experiments have been carried out previously, but on a much smaller scale.

The findings from such experiments can feed into how driverless cars are arranged on the roads.

Results of the experiment have been published in the journal Science.