Harvard creates a legion of tiny collective robots

Harvard has successfully demonstrated a collective of quarter-sized robots that operate with "swarming" behaviors — such as formation, control and synchronization. Once activated, they are autonomous and do not require human interaction to control their activity.

These little robots are disarmingly adorable as they totter about on three tiny stick legs and display different colored light signals indicating they are in communication with the programming algorithms and with each other.

Created by members of the Self-Organizing Systems Research Group at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) was chronicled in the June 2011 Harvard Technical Report. Now, the "Kilobots" — named for their ability to be mass produced — is part of a technology licensing deal with the K-team Corporation, a Swiss manufacturer of high quality mobile robots. It looks like soon researchers and the general public can experiment with their own swarms.

The Kilobots are seen as a key in one day attaining high-end applications for multi-robot systems and the development of more sophisticated algorithms that could coordinate sweeping scales of miniature robots. Potential uses? Exploring earthquake shattered buildings for survivors, battlefield reconnaissance, anything deemed unsafe or unnecessary for humans. Our dream use? Well, cue the videos of Kilobots dancing to "Thriller."

The research group was led by Radhika Nagpal, the Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. Her team also includes Michael Rubenstein, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS; and Christian Ahler, a fellow of SEAS and the Wyss Institute.

Learn more about the Kilobots in the video below.

Harvard SSR Group, via PhysOrg

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