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Growing Bio-Inspired Shapes With Hundreds of Tiny Robots

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The robots used during the experiments.

Hundreds of small robots can work in a team to create biology-inspired shapes, without an underlying master plan.

Credit: AAAS

Researchers in the Robotics Laboratory of the University of Bristol in the U.K. have found that hundreds of small robots can work in a team to create biology-inspired shapes without an underlying master plan, based only on local communication and movement.

The researchers introduced the biological principles of self-organization to swarm robotics, using coin-sized robots and equipping them with basic rules on how to interact with neighbors, specifically programming them to act similarly to cells in a tissue.

Those "genetic" rules mimic the system responsible for the Turing patterns seen in nature, like the arrangement of fingers on a hand or the spots on a leopard.

The robots rely on infrared messaging to communicate with neighbors within a 10cm range.

Said Bristol's Daniel Carrillo-Zapata, "Because we took inspiration from biological shape formation, which is known to be self-organized and robust to failure, such swarms could still keep working even if some robots were damaged."

From University of Bristol News
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