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Harvard Unleashes Swarm of Robots

August 19, 2014

 

Harvard University scientists have devised a swarm of 1,024 tiny robots that can work together without any assistance from humans. Like a robotic flash mob, these robots can assemble themselves into five-pointed stars, letters of the alphabet and other complex designs. The researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Cambridge, Mass., reported their work on Thursday.  

"The beauty of biological systems is that they are elegantly simple and yet, in large numbers, accomplish the seemingly impossible," said Harvard computer scientist Radhika Nagpal. Harvard researchers used inexpensive robots called kilobots, created by the Wyss Institute engineers and licensed to a Swiss company called K-Team Corp. Each robot is about the size of a penny, with a small processor, an infrared sensor and vibration motors to move it along.

"Increasingly, we're going to see large numbers of robots working together, whether it's hundreds of robots cooperating to achieve environmental cleanup or a quick disaster response, or millions of self-driving cars on our highways," Nagpal said.

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