Harvard researchers create a swarm of small robots that work together to form shapes

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CAMBRIDGE, MA – Everyone knows that when it comes to getting something done, it’s best to work together. Teamwork is what’s being tackled on this weeks Weird Science, and the task at hand is being performed by a swarm of tiny robots.

Researchers at Harvard have unleashed this hoard of mini machines, but not for the purpose of world domination. No, these coin-sized ‘bots band together to make shapes like a starfish, a wrench or the letter K.

The goal for scientists is to figure out how complex swarms form in nature. Birds do it in the air, bugs do it on the ground, fish do it under water and marching bands form “formations” on football fields. All creating something bigger than the sum of its parts.

Only four out of the team of 1,024 kilobots are told the shape the group will be making. By simple communication, those four bark out instructions to the rest, who then start to form their cluster. They might be a bit slow (the “K” took almost 12 hours to finish) but they get the job done. The kilobots also work cheap, costing about 20 bucks each to make.

So you see, there’s nothing to fear about this week’s Weird Science. They’re cute little robots that like to flash mob together. Well, until someone decides to strap lasers on them. Then we’re all doomed.

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