Cheap Kilobot Swarms

Kilobots are small, cheap robots that move around on their slender stick-like legs by vibrating them. It takes about five minutes to build one and each once costs only $14. They are currently powered by small lithium-ion batteries which can supply a charge for three hours. Each Kilobot transmits an infrared light which allows other Kilobots to sense their location and exchange data across the group. Each Kilobot has limited computational ability, but it’s enough to allow them to combine locomotion, distance sensing, and communication to demonstrate and investigate swarming and other simple collective autonomous behavior.

The Kilobot Project: – [harvard.edu]

A Low Cost Scalable Robot System for Demonstrating Collective Behaviors

In current robotics research there is a vast body of work on algorithms and control methods for groups of decentralized cooperating robots, called a swarm or collective. These algorithms are generally meant to control collectives of hundreds or even thousands of robots; however, for reasons of cost, time, or complexity, they are generally validated in simulation only, or on a group of a few 10s of robots. To address this issue, we present Kilobot, a low-cost robot designed to make testing collective algorithms on hundreds or thousands of robots accessible to robotics researchers. To enable the possibility of large Kilobot collectives where the number of robots is an order of magnitude larger than the largest that exist today, each robot is made with only $14 worth of parts and takes 5 minutes to assemble. Furthermore, the robot design allows a single user to easily oversee the operation of a large Kilobot collective, such as programming, powering on, and charging all robots, which would be dificult or impossible to do with many existing robotic systems. We demonstrate the capabilities of the Kilobot as a collective robot, using a 29 robot test collective to implement some popular swarm behaviors. For more details please see the following paper and the narrated videos below.

Kilobots Are Cheap Enough to Swarm in the Thousands – [ieee.org]

These are Kilobots. They’re fairly simple little robots about the size of a quarter that can move around on vibrating legs, blink their lights, and communicate with each other. On an individual basis, this isn’t particularly impressive, but Kilobots aren’t designed to be used on an individual basis. Costing a mere $14 each and buildable in about five minutes, you don’t just get yourself one single Kilobot. Or ten. Or a hundred. They’re designed to swarm in the thousands, although the Harvard group that’s working on them is starting out with a modest 25:

Kilobots bring us one step closer to a robot swarm – [physorg.com]

When you think about robots, the odds are that you think about something that is fairly large. Maybe you picture a robot arms bolted to the floor of a factory or if you are feeling particularly dramatic maybe you even pictured the terminator. You probably do not think much about tiny robots, but they have some big potential as a robot swarm.

Tiny $14 Kilobots work by swarming together – [gizmag.com]

Autonomous robotic devices are certainly capable of some impressive feats, but as is the case with people, sometimes large groups can accomplish what an individual or a small group can’t. Research projects such as BAE Systems’ MAST program recognize this potential, and are investigating ways in which entire swarms of small robots could work together. The problem is, given how much time and money goes into the creation of a typical autonomous robot, it’s difficult to find a swarm of them to experiment upon – researchers often have to use computer simulations, or do their tests with a small group of robots, then scale up the results. That’s where Harvard University’s Kilobot project comes into play. It incorporates tiny swarming robots that take just five minutes to build, and that are worth about US$14 each.

SEE ALSO:
Self-Assembling Swarms of Microrobots
Swarm Intelligence
Cellular Automata
Claytronics
Utility Fog

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