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.
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.