Kicking off one of its new crowdfunding campaigns, University of Colorado at Boulder announced it is seeking $10k in order to build 1,000 small robots called Droplets. The robots measure the distance and orientation of neighboring robots, allowing for complete pattern formation and self-assembly experiments.
Each Droplet has an awareness of any other robots near it. They can effectively operate as a single unit that’s much larger and intelligent than any individual member of a “swarming” group. The concept of a “swarm” is that lots of robot working together may be able to capable than one robot working alone.
Doctoral student in computer science John Klingner stated, “By having relatively simple individual agent, if we put many of them together, that’s more than the sum of the parts essentially.”
Mr. Klingner also noted the example of a swarming in a nature setting include the collective behaviors of ant colonies or bees. Another computer science doctoral student Anshul Kanakia added, the more practical uses of swarming robots may include tasks like containing an oil spill in the ocean or a wildfire.
The Droplets includes unlimited running time without stopping to charge; omnidirectional motion; directional communication with user-settable communication range from less than 1cm to 1m; range and bearing sensing; true-color, full-body illumination; RGB color sensing; self-righting; droplet-to-droplet reprogramming; expandable RAM/Flash.
Each Droplet is designed to work in a dedicated arena, which has a powered floor, supports IR communication with the robots and also includes an overhead camera and projector system. This system may have a lot of potential but even though each individual robot is relatively cheap, they are not that cheap.
The team hopes to raise $10k to construct the robots. This is not a suggestion that the cost for each Droplets will cost $100. A full 50 percent of the $10k will go towards the cast that has to be made in order to efficiently injection-mold the plastic outer shell.
CU Boulder revealed it does wish to use a huge swarm of Droplets to start teaching college-level “swarm intelligence” classes, high school-level classes that use the robots as visual aids, and make robots available to artists for use.
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