Not all robot swarms look alike, and not all robots in swarms need look alike either. That’s what researchers at the University of California are working on.
Researchers at the University California, San Diego, are taking the first steps towards robotics swarms that can be rapidly customized, self-assembled, and then self-deployed, without needing tedious human intervention at every step of the way. They’re laser-cut from flat sheets, can fold themselves up, and then skitter away with only a minimum of human finger-lifting.
The heterogeneous swarm idea is not a new one: Insects have been doing it for ages, and it’s been very effective for them. With ants, for example, you’ve got little workers and some big soldiers, neither of which are suited for doing each other’s jobs, but together, they make the overall swarm much more efficient. Sadly, we’re not as clever as the ants at autonomously generating new swarm members, but Michael Tolley’s lab at UCSD has been making progress in the right direction.