Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Robotics Update: Swarmbots

Using insect life as a pattern, European scientists are working on Swarmbots.

Marco Dorigo, director of the artificial intelligence research lab at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, leads a "swarm-bots" project funded by the EU. As he says, ants are simple creatures that can perform complicated tasks without centralised control. Dorigo and his colleagues are using ant algorithms to help control 20 mini-robots. Working together, these robots can cooperate to complete tasks such as transporting an object too heavy for an individual.

"Applications such as space exploration are envisageable, but the main goal of this project is of a basic research flavour. We want to learn how to design and control swarms of small and relatively simple robots," he says.

The swarm-bots communicate by coloured lights, sounds, or by pulling or pushing each other. Russell says using chemicals, as insects do, might have some advantages. "Biology shows us that in all the large groupings of insects, chemical communication is very important for organisation." |Link|

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