Dog Pod Grid one step closer to reality

What’s better than one amazingly acrobatic quadcopter? How about a swarm of acrobatic micro-quadcopters? It’s not a rhetorical question, but an experimental reality. A team at the University of Pennsylvania are showing off their latest round of hovering robots which can move in formation and alter their orientation as a swarm.

You may remember us salivating over the unbelievable stunts the team pulled off with a single ‘copter back in 2010. That device needed a sophisticated camera installation to give provide feedback, and this uses the same framework. But we don’t that detracts from the achievement; it’s simply a future hurdle for the project.

The video after the break shows some of the stunts the slew of whirring devices are capable of. Watching them move as a grid, and even landing simultaneously, we can’t help but think of the Dog Pod Grid from Neal Stephenson’s book The Diamond Age. It was used as a protection system, keeping unwanted flying intruders out. Doesn’t sound so far-fetched any more, does it?

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I have seen the future, and it has Swarmanoids


Imagine that you want a book that is located on a shelf several rooms over, but you do not want to get out of your chair. Short of developing telekenesis on the spot, there’s little you can do other than get up and fetch the book yourself – that is, unless you have an army of Swarmanoids to do your bidding.

This robotic swarm is the pet project of [Dr. Marco Dorigo] from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and is impressive to say the least . As the Mission: Impossible-esque video plays out, you see several different robots working in concert, flying, climbing, and driving around to fetch a book from a shelf. The robots have no information regarding their surroundings, forcing them to learn and “speak” to one another in order to reach their goal once the target has been located.

It really is amazing to watch these robots work together, but don’t take our word for it. Check out the Swarmanoids in action below.


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$14 swarm robot, kilobot, is extremely cool

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.

Seaswarm: we can clean up the Gulf in a month

Want to clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in one month? Seaswarm says it can be done with 5000 floating robots.

As the name implies, the project uses swarm robotics. Each unit draws power from the sun, and drags around a conveyor belt of oil absorbent nanofabric that doesn’t get wet in water. Once the fabric is saturated with crude it can be removed using heat; not a task the swarm can do by itself. But get this: after separating oil from nanofabric both can be used again. That means you get the environmental benefit of cleaning up the Gulf, not throwing away your collection medium, and the oil is once again a usable commodity. Sounds like a lot of high promises, but take a look at the video after the break and decide for yourself.

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Update: Acrobatic quadcopters team up

We usually envision small wheeled robots when we thing about swarm robotics but these cooperative quadcopters make us think again. This is an extension of the same project that produced those impressive aerial acrobatics. It may not be as flashy, but watching groups of the four-rotored flyers grab onto and lift loads is quite impressive. There is also a shot of one dropping a 2×4 and immediately compensating for the loss of weight. We’re not certain, but it looks like team lifting doesn’t require the 20 high-speed camera rig that the acrobatics did. We’ve embedded the demonstration video after the break.

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Distributed Flight Array

Though it is in the beginning stages of development, the Distributed Flight Array is already looking very interesting. Each unit can scuttle across the ground using the down force from its prop, but when 4 or more join forces, they can take off and fly. The documentation shows that they should be smart enough to fly in random configurations, though in the video we only see the standard 4 prop layout. This is being worked on by the same people who produced the balancing cube.

[via BoingBoing]

I-Swarm robot update


Back in October we reported on the I-Swarm robotics project. [Travis] sent us some more information. These tiny robots are programmed optically and are able to respond to programming commands via an infrared signal. Locomotion is facilitated with piezoelectric actuators and the power to the units provided through a solar cell. It is not clear that this project is still ongoing as the I-Swarm web page lists a project termination date of 6/31/2008. That being said, the video embedded after the break was posted two days ago showing swarm movement and detailing the programming, testing, and hardware specifics. [Read more...]