Swarming robots could be the servants of the future

17 April 2013

Researchers in the Sheffield Centre for Robotics have been working to program a group of 40 robots, and say the ability to control robot swarms could prove beneficial in a range of contexts, from military to medical.

The researchers have demonstrated that the swarm can carry out simple fetching and carrying tasks, by grouping around an object and working together to push it across a surface. The robots can also group themselves together into a single cluster after being scattered across a room, and organise themselves by order of priority.

The programming developed to control the robots is said to bedeceptively simple. For example, if the robots are being asked to group together, each robot only needs to be able to work out if there is another robot in front of it. If there is, it turns on the spot; if there isn’t, it moves in a wider circle until it finds one.

Commenting on the project, Dr Roderich Gross, head of the Natural Robotics Lab, in the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are developing Artificial Intelligence to control robots in a variety of ways. The key is to work out what is the minimum amount of information needed by the robot to accomplish its task. That is important because it means the robot may not need any memory, and possibly not even a processing unit, so this technology could work for nanoscale robots, for example in medical applications.”

See the robots in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e12RicAy1Q

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