The madmen at Harvard have finally done it: they’ve simulated real life swarms with tiny robots, thereby bringing the coming robot apocalypse that much closer.
Or maybe they just created some really cool proof-of-concept robotic self-assembly systems. Either way, what you’re seeing is a set of a thousand “kilobots” that can self-assembled into shapes and patterns. The first few bots create a seed and then the other bots fall into line, positioning themselves perfectly among their peers.
The process they use is actually quite amazing. The seed bots gather together and send out little blasts of IR light. The dimmer the light the further away, so the other robots begin moving towards the seed. Finally, once they get enough robots in one place, the robots communicate with each other to position themselves properly. These robots could also be charged via IR or an internet power network that activates when the robots chain up.
The robots can even tell other robots when they are broken or off course, allowing the healthy robots to maintain their work. It’s some amazing technology and looks wildly cool on video. I suspect, however, that we don’t have to worry about these little bots just yet – they’d die underfoot with a satisfying crunch – but I worry what will happen when they form the shape of a gun.