Washington: A team of researchers has developed a basic robotic building block, which they hope to reproduce in large quantities to develop increasingly complex systems.
University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor Nikolaus Correll likes to think in multiples – if one robot can accomplish a singular task, think how much more could be accomplished if you had hundreds of them.
Recently, Correll and his computer science research team, including research associate Dustin Reishus and professional research assistant Nick Farrow, created a swarm of 20 robots each the size of a pingpong ball, which they call “droplets.”
When the droplets swarm together, Correll said, they form a “liquid that thinks.”
To accelerate the pace of innovation, he has created a lab where students can explore and develop new applications of robotics with basic, inexpensive tools.
Similar to the fictional “nanomorphs” depicted in the “Terminator” films, large swarms of intelligent robotic devices could be used for a range of tasks.
Swarms of robots could be unleashed to contain an oil spill or to self-assemble into a piece of hardware after being launched separately into space, Correll said.
Correll plans to use the droplets to demonstrate self-assembly and swarm-intelligent behaviours like pattern recognition, sensor-based motion and adaptive shape change. These behaviours could then be transferred to large swarms for water- or air-based tasks.
He hopes to create a design methodology for aggregating the droplets into more complex behaviours such as assembling parts of a large space telescope or an aircraft.