Before you get too excited, this technology has not actually been implemented yet. But a recent article on OhMyNews.com describes the way a simple robot may be printed on a standard printer, modified to use special polymer inks. There’s a rundown of all the components required, and details on how each may be printed. Did you know it is possible to print a 1.5 volt battery? I didn’t, until I read this article.
Imagine how much fun kids are going to have: design a papercraft robot on the computer, print it out, program it to fly around and follow you down the street. Program two robots to fight each other. Make an origami rosebud and watch it bloom. Just fill in the blanks: Make a _______, program it to _______ and watch it _______.
Last month I talked about swarming robots learning to play football together. More recently, NASA and MIT sent a little satellite called a “droid” up to the ISS. They’re in the process of teaching it to navigate around the station, then they’re going to send up some more identical droids and teach them to fly in formation.
Of course, they’re not just flying them all with one remote control — that would be cheating. Instead, the satellites would act as swarmed robots, communicating position and velocity and other relevant data to each other and operating completely autonomously. Once the programmers on the project (dubbed SPHERES) perfect their navigational capabilities they’ll begin teaching them to do other stuff, such as building and repairing space-borne structures.
update 2006-06-23 13:16: This news came via Worldchanging, but apparently The Daily Show mentioned it last night as well.
Rosie. R Daneel. K-9. Data. R2-D2. I think you know what I’m getting at.
But no Buffybots.
Here’s the latest advance in tactile sensors. From the SciAm article:
The device, a so-called electroluminescent thin film, glows in response to applied pressure. The result is a finely detailed image of the texture of any object that touches the film. [...] Because the sensor produces data in the form of an optical image, the data can be quickly and easily collected by simply photographing the image. This represents a major step forward in the ease and efficiency of collecting information from tactile sensors. Quick data collection is critical to performing real-time tasks, for example grasping a tool with a robotic arm. If the tool starts to slip, the image produced by the electroluminescent film immediately shows the tool’s motion, and the robot’s grip can then be adjusted to prevent it from falling.
Of course, this technology could be applied to either robots or cyborgs, although the latter would involve translating the image received into immpulses the human brain would understand.
As the field of robotics, and AI specifically, advance, people have more and more fun programming them. Take, for instance, the RoboCup World Championship, happening this month in Germany. 350 teams of robots attempt to score as many goals as possible.
This is a cool application of swarm robotics. You need to co-ordinate five autonomous robots so that they can map out the terrain, keep track of where everyone is, including the ball, and determine the best way to win the game. There have been many applications, both practical and theoretical, of swarm robotics, and many predict that it is the breakthrough that will open the way to a robot age.
For some discussion of swarm robotics and its applications, here are some choice resources:
- NASA’s ANTS project
Neal Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer
More items will be added as I decide to expand the list. Comments are enabled for this article; please feel free to suggest any source of swarm-related material.