Reader, [Michael Rubenstein], sent in a project he’s been working on. Kilobot, as stated in the paper(pdf), overcomes the big problems with real world swarm robotics simulations; cost, experiment setup time, and maintenance. The robot can be communicated with wirelessly, charged in bulk, and mass programmed in under a minute. Typically, robots used for swarm research cost over a $100, so large scale experiments are left to software simulation. These, however, rarely include the real world physics, sensor error, and other modifying factors that only arise in a physical robot. Impressively enough, the kilobot comes in far under a hundred and still has many of the features of its costlier brothers. It can sense other robots, report its status, and has full differential steer (achieved, surprisingly, through bristle locomotion). There are a few cool videos of the robot in operation on the project site that are definitely worth a look.
When the Bristlebots were released back in 2007 by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, we all thought they were pretty cool. Apparently someone at Klutz did too. They have released a book, with the title “Invasion of the BristleBots”. The bots seem to be identical and the name is identical. There is no mention of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories anywhere in it. [Phillip Torrone] has attempted to contact Klutz and the book publisher Scholastic directly to find out more information.
[Windell] and [Lenore] from EMSL had this to say:
“This is the first that I’ve heard of it. Frankly, I am a bit offended. Klutz makes some nice things, and I’m surprised that they wouldn’t have contacted us, asked permission, or at least given us credit. (Locomotion by ratcheting bristles isn’t remotely new — it occurs in nature — but the name ‘Bristlebot’ is surely ours, and I don’t know of any prior implementation with a toothbrush.)”