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Harvard creates robot swarm that can assemble itself into shapes

Courtesy: Images courtesy of Mike Rubenstein/SEAS

Courtesy: Images courtesy of Mike Rubenstein/SEAS

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, August 14, 2014, 2:42 PM - Harvard is touting its new invention as the world's first "robot mob."

The swarm of 1,024 tiny robots responds to voice commands and can assemble itself into shapes.

Harvard is calling them Kilobots, and they each measure just a few centimetres in width.

The bots have been designed to collaborate with one another enabling the swarm to perform complex tasks.

"Just as trillions of individual cells can assemble into an intelligent organism, or 1,000 starlings can form a great flowing murmuration across the sky, the Kilobots demonstrate how complexity can arise from very simple behaviors performed en masse," The Harvard Gazette reports.

"To computer scientists, they also represent a significant milestone in the development of collective artificial intelligence."

In the past, few robot swarms have exceeded 100 individuals due to algorithmic limitations and high cost.

Harvard's team was able to overcome these obstacles -- resulting in a swarm that's capable of correcting its own mistakes, like traffic jams or moving off-course.

"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," study lead Radhika Nagpal told the Harvard Gazette. 

In the meantime, the Kilobots will be used to perfect artificial intelligence algorithms.

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