The s-bots Swarm-Bots.

The swarm-bots are coming! The swarm-bots are coming! Here's an article about the creation of Roderich Groß, Marco Dorigo and colleagues: robots that can assemble themselves into a bigger entity to perform a certain task.

With a camera and eight colored LEDs, the s-bots can “communicate” with each other on their status. For example, blue lights mean that an s-bot is not connected, while a red light signifies that the s-bot has gripped another s-bot (or a passive object) and tells other s-bots to approach and latch on. A mobility system of tracks and wheels, or “treels,” enables the s-bots to navigate on rough terrain, and gives them good steering abilities.

“Swarm-bot combines the advantages of multi-robot and modular robot systems,” said Groß of the robot’s intelligence. “The component modules of swarm-bot, the s-bots, are fully autonomous and mobile, and they choose whether to assemble into a bigger entity to perform a task.”

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Swarmbotics is pretty big these days, and one of the neat er asepcts of it is the "modular robotics" bit. I saw a guy from Georgia Tech who demo such a system that was composed of large #s of smaller robots. It was smart enough to recognize when bits of itself were failing, eject them, and rebuild itself to continue. It could also figure out how to change its shape, and say change from a snake-like configuration into a legged one. Think of the T-1000 from the Terminator series, except really really primitive.
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