The University of Colorado at Boulder is seeking to raise $US10,000 in order to build 1,000 small robots called Droplets, according to Evan Ackerman at IEEE Spectrum.
They look like this:
We’ve previously reported on the idea of “swarming” in robotics. The gist is that lots and lots of simple robots working together can be as capable (if not moreso) than one complex robot working alone. Consider a colony of thousands of ants collaborating to build a network of underground tunnels versus a lone human trying to do the same thing.
Now UC Boulder wants in on the swarm game. When working en masse, Droplets “measure the distance and orientation of neighbouring robots, allowing for complex pattern formation and self-assembly experiments.” In other words, each Droplet has an awareness of every other Droplet. This means they can effectively operate as a single organism that’s much larger and intelligent than any individual member of the swarm.
Because they currently draw their electrical energy from a special powered floor, Droplets can operate indefinitely. This seems to mostly serve for a lab setup for now — Anshul Kanakia, a computer science PhD. candidate working on the project, suggests that Droplets could eventually find application in mapping oil spills in the ocean. By detecting oil in the ocean and communicating GPS coordinates with each other, Droplets can map the affected area:
If you’re going to build loads of robots, you obviously need the funds to do so. UC Boulder is crowdfunding through its own site to raise $US10,000 for building 1,000 Droplets. A $US30 donation earns you privileges to name one of them.
Here’s the demo video below:
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