Tiny Robots Tested in Terminator-style Intelligent Swarms (Video)

U. Colorado Boulder/Promo image

University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor Nikolaus Correll dreams of great things in the future of distributed intelligence in the robotic sciences:

Every living organism is made from a swarm of collaborating cells. Perhaps some day, our swarms will colonize space where they will assemble habitats and lush gardens for future space explorers.

To speed up the achievements of new breakthroughs, Correll has set up a lab at U. Colorado Boulder where students can probe the possibilities that robot swarming can offer. The lab includes 20 robots the size of pingpong balls, which the team refers to as "droplets." When the droplets work together, they form a "liquid that thinks."

The lab employs inexpensive tools which students can use to test the behaviors of the robots and explore new applications for the miniature robot teams.

The video above makes an analogy with ants or swarms of bees: each insect on its own cannot accomplish much. But when thousands work together, they become an effective machine.

In a similar manner, tiny robots such as the “nanomorphs” envisioned in the “Terminator” films could swarm into oil spills to clean up, could work together to assemble equipment in space, could use sensor and pattern recognition technology to map and study difficult to access ecosystems. Correll also continues to work on a project in which robots learn to tend gardens, which he started when he was with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

If we can ensure that such tiny robots are designed for disassembly or decompose when they die, such technology will truly find a place in our future.

Tags: Colorado | Electronics | Technology