Some of the best robot swarms we've seen can either fly in formation or swim in a group, and while these are certainly awesome, they represent somewhat singular abilities. A new swarm that looks like a bunch of ping pong balls is both simpler and more complex, with potentially much more flexibility.
Nikolaus Correll, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, has a team of engineers building basic robotic building blocks that can be taught to work together. After they learn their skills, the individual robots can be modified or used for a variety of purposes. The goal is to develop a robot skill set that can be reproduced--from self-assembly and pattern recognition to shape-changing.
"Our robots aren't really designed for one particular problem," said Nicholas Farrow, a research assistant in computer science who is working on the project. "When our robots are completed, we'll be able to apply them to problems we haven't even thought of right now."
The team is led by postdoctoral researcher Dustin Reishus, who works in Correll's lab. The team built 20 robots, each the size of a ping pong ball, which they call "droplets." When the droplets swarm, they create a smart "liquid," as Correll explains it. About 10 of them are actually functional, but the team is still writing code to make the droplets capable of swarming together.
They could be modified to swim and clean up oil spills, potentially. Or they could be sent into space to assemble space station or satellite parts--or even self-assemble, Terminator-style, into whatever structure is required.
"Self Replciating Nanobot Swarms"... all i'm going to say. Imagine the cloud coming towards your city. Scary... also very useful if correctly used.
"Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon."
As the collective mind of the swarm works to over through the Earth, in the back ground you can hear the music, "We Will, We Will, ROCK YOU, ROCK YOU!", lol.
I wrote an article a while back about other steerable vibrobots, including the Harvard Kilobots and how to build your own (courtesy Naghi Sotoudeh). Since the Droplets use the same actuation technique, you might find the article interesting:
It will be interesting to see if this technology succeeds.
Well, I, for one, welcome our new "Swarming ping pong ball-sized Droplet Robots" overlords. Let me be the first to welcome them and remind them how useful I can be in organizing the native carbon-based lifeforms into the energy absorbing cubicles.
i wonder if this is how the Borg started. "resistance is futile"
I knew it!!! The blob was really a glob of nanomachines built by the gov'.
We will all become victims of the goo!!!
And if they are built right, they could harness kinetic energy exerted by any object within their confines. So resistance isn't futile, its beneficial! They would want you to actively resist as much as possible!
If they can do almost anything, can they do my homework or make me a sandwich?
Follow us on twitter @correlllab to stay tuned on the Droplets and their availability.
I wonder what happens if one drinks this FLUID they form, when all the Droplets combine? And, what would the next morning bring?
A Brundle-borg! Lol!