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'Flashmob' robots swarm themselves into shape

Published on Aug 15, 2014 2:15 AM
The Kilobots, a swarm of 1,000 simple but collaborative robots are pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on August 14, 2014. The robots, each just a few centimetres across, standing on three pin-like legs, are capable of collaborating to perform complex behaviours. To computer scientists, they also represent a significant milestone in the development of collective artificial intelligence. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Without any helping hand, more than 1,000 simple robots the size of votive candles can swarm themselves into complex shapes like a star or the letter K, US researchers said on Thursday.

The project is the latest breakthrough in robotics from a team at Harvard University that has also created robots inspired by termites.

Called Kilobots, these 1,024 simple machines were designed to act like bees and ants, using vibration motors to glide across surfaces and infrared lights to communicate with each other.

"We are especially inspired by systems where individuals can self-assemble together to solve problems," said Radhika Nagpal, Fred Kavli professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

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