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Swarm robotics is a new approach to the coordination of multirobot systems which consist of large numbers of mostly simple physical robots. It is supposed that a desired collective behavior emerges from the interactions between the robots and interactions of robots with the environment. This approach emerged on the field of artificial swarm intelligence, as well as the biological studies of insects, ants and other fields in nature, where swarm behaviour occurs.
The research of swarm robotics is to study the design of robots, their physical body and their controlling behaviors. It is inspired but not limited by the emergent behavior observed in social insects, called swarm intelligence. Relatively simple individual rules can produce a large set of complex swarm behaviors. A key-component is the communication between the members of the group that build a system of constant feedback. The swarm behavior involves constant change of individuals in cooperation with others, as well as the behavior of the whole group.
Unlike distributed robotic systems in general, swarm robotics emphasizes a large number of robots, and promotes scalability, for instance by using only local communication. That local communication for example can be achieved by wireless transmission systems, like radio frequency or infrared.
Video tracking is an essential tool for systematically studying swarm-behavior, even though other tracking methods are available. Recently Bristol robotics laboratory developed an ultrasonic position tracking system for swarm research purposes. Further research is needed to find methodologies that allow the design and reliable prediction of swarm behavior when only the features of the individual swarm members are given.
Goals and applications
Both miniaturization and cost are key-factors in swarm robotics. These are the constraints in building large groups of robotics; therefore the simplicity of the individual team member should be emphasized. This should motivate a swarm-intelligent approach to achieve meaningful behavior at swarm-level, instead of the individual level.
Potential applications for swarm robotics include tasks that demand for miniaturization (nanorobotics, microbotics), like distributed sensing tasks in micromachinery or the human body. On the other hand swarm robotics can be suited to tasks that demand cheap designs, for instance mining tasks or agricultural foraging tasks. Also some artists use swarm robotic techniques to realize new forms of interactive art.
Most efforts have focussed on relatively small groups of machines. However, a swarm consisting of 1,024 individual units was demonstrated by Harvard in 2014, the largest to date.
- Ant robotics
- Behavior-based robotics
- Flocking (behavior)
- Multi-agent systems
- Swarm intelligence
- Autonomous agents
- List of emerging technologies
- iWARD stands for Intelligent Robot Swarm for Attendance, Recognition, Cleaning and Delivery and funded by FP6
- Swarm-bots: Swarms of self-assembling artifacts -- EU IST-FET project (2001-2005)
- Award-winning swarm-bot video at AAAI 2007
- i-Swarm project -- EU IST-FET project (2004-2008)
- Swarmanoid: Towards Humanoid Robotic Swarms -- EU IST-FET project (2006-2010)
- Award-winning swarmanoid video at AAAI 2011
- The Kilobot project
- Epuck robots
- "A self-organizing thousand-robot swarm". Harvard. 14 August 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2014.