In ways reminiscent of the Borg collective from "Star Trek," robots are learning to work together in large groups.
Robots work in swarms and hives
iRobot and Frontline Robotics are teaching robots how to work together.
The goal of iRobot's swarm project is to coordinate the actions of groups of hundreds of individual robots. A Swarm Operating System (SwarmOS) is under development to control as many as 10,000 robots or SwarmBots.
iRobot's SwarmBots communicate with their neighbors using their own internal messaging system. Global behaviors are formed from the interactions of many individuals by using a collection of "group behavior building blocks."
Each SwarmBot packs a 32-bit microprocessor in a 5-inch cube. Proposed applications include land-mine disposal, nuclear/biological/ chemical threat detection, surveillance, and interplanetary exploration.
Frontline Robotics is developing unmanned ground units, or "Grunts," that can make decisions on their own. When arriving at a gate at the same time, for example, two Grunts (right) decide which one should go through first. Using their "hive intelligence," every robot in a team will be able to see what others see. Here's a video of the Grunts.
Frontline Robotics' "Grunt" made an appearance in May at the RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition at MIT. This robot-driven six-wheeler can work together with other units over a large area to perceive a security threat and take action in a coordinated manner.
Frontline Robotics' 914 is a low-cost x86-based PC-Bot that is run by off-the-shelf products such as the VIA Mini-ITX mainboard and an integrated VIA C3 processor and chipset. With Robot Open Control, the goal is to create an army of smart robots at a minimal cost.