Fish gotta school, Birds gotta flock, ... and Robots, it seems, gotta swarm (Science News)
The Kilobot swarm is a thousand-robot (1024) swarm designed to allow one to program and experiment with collective behaviors in large-scale autonomous swarms. Each robot has the basic capabilities required for an autonomous swarm robot (programmable controller, basic locomotion, and local communication), but is made with low-cost parts and is mostly assembled by an automated process. In addition, the system design allows a single user to easily and scalably operate a large Kilobot collective, such as "hands-off" programming, powering on, and charging all robots. We use the Kilobot swarm to investigate collective "artificial" intelligence (e.g. sync, collective transport, self-assembly) as well as to explore new theories that link minimal individual capabilities to acheivable swarm behaviors. For example, we demonstrated how a self-organizing swarm of a thousand robots can self-assemble into global shapes based on simple behaviors performed en masse (published in Science 2014) and recently we showed how error cascades can emerge in collectives (AAMAS 2017).
The Kilobot Swarm was chosen by Science Magazine as one of the Top 10 breakthroughs for 2014, and was also highlighted in Nature's magazine's top 10. The Kilobot hardware and software design is available open-source for non-commercial use, and for purchase through K-Team Corp, and we have a web-based programming environment Kilobotics. Our goal is to make experimental research on collective behaviors possible, and widely accessible and to enable deeper understanding and new algorithmic insights into robustness, scalability, self-organization, and emergence in collectives of limited individuals. Kilobots are now used by dozens of labs accross the world!
DESIGN: If you would like to build your own Kilobots, all the software and hardware details are available under a Creative Commons attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) license. (zipped directory)
PRESS AND MEDIA
"Building 1,000 robots is hard", McLurkin said. "Getting 1,000 robots to work together reliably is, how they’d say it in Boston? Wicked hard." (Boston Globe)
The Kilobot Project is published in Science: Lots of media coverage!
Science: Fish gotta school, birds gotta flock, and robots, it seems, gotta swarm.
Boston Globe: Tiny robots ‘swarm’ into shape.
National Geographic: A thousand cooperative self-organising robots.
NPR: All Things Considered, a podcast interview with Michael Rubenstein
BBC News, Nature News, Scientific American,
IFL!, IEEE Spectrum, Wired Magazine, Popular Mechanics,
Ars Technica (by Sabine Haeurt!),
Harvard Gazette, SEAS/Wyss Press release, NSF News,
The Telegraph (India)
Kilobot Movies: Youtube Channel
Rise of the Swarm, Communications of the ACM, 2013.
SEAS Article (Kilobots are leaving the nest), 2011
Slashdot Article (Nov 2011)
Inside NOVA Blog (Adventures in Swarm Robotics), 2011
IEEE Spectrum blog article (June 2011).