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"Particle robot" works as a cluster of simple units

Robohub

Taking a cue from biological cells, researchers from MIT, Columbia University, and elsewhere have developed computationally simple robots that connect in large groups to move around, transport objects, and complete other tasks. This so-called "particle robotics" system -- based on a project by MIT, Columbia Engineering, Cornell University, and Harvard University researchers -- comprises many individual disc-shaped units, which the researchers call "particles." The particles are loosely connected by magnets around their perimeters, and each unit can only do two things: expand and contract. That motion, when carefully timed, allows the individual particles to push and pull one another in coordinated movement. On-board sensors enable the cluster to gravitate toward light sources.


Simple cell-like robots join together in large groups to transport objects

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Scientists have succeeded in creating simple cell-like robots that join together in large groups, move in a coordinated fashion and transport objects. They are able to coordinate their movements, transport objects and even respond to light. Scientists call them'particle robots' but even their creators admit they share similarities with the'grey goo' that prompted a famous warning from the Prince of Wales. Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which self-replicating robots consume all biomass on Earth. Scientists have succeeded in creating simple cell-like robots that join together in large groups, move in a coordinated fashion and transport objects.


Law of attraction: Particle robot proves many hands do light work

ZDNet

In physics, particles are small localized objects with physical characteristics like mass or volume. From those humble ingredients, our virtually limitless universe is built. So it seems it was a mix of humility and pride that prompted researchers at MIT, Columbia, Cornell, and Harvard to name the robots in their novel new cooperative robotic system "particles." The concept, presented in an article in the journal Nature, is that a cooperative system of small robots might be able to do complex work, even if no single component in the system is computationally complex. It's the theory at the heart of a branch of automation called swarm robotics.


Robot swarm inspired by cells can keep moving even if its parts fail

New Scientist

A swarm of robots inspired by living cells can squeeze through gaps and keep moving even if many of its parts fail. Living cells gather together and collectively migrate under certain conditions, such as when inflammatory cells travel through the bloodstream to a wound site to help the healing process. To mimic this, Hod Lipson at Columbia University in New York and his colleagues created 25 disc-shaped robots that can join together. Each is equipped with cogs that cause the robot's outer shell to expand and contract and magnets around its perimeter that let it stick to neighbouring bots. Individually, the bots can't move, but once stuck together, the swarm can slither across a surface by making individual bots expand and contract at different times.


Robots elect leader and join forces to create a larger robot

ZDNet

A team from the Free University of Brussels has made a robot capable of working together with its siblings to make a larger robot. Don't worry, robots and AI won't take your job: Well, at least not all of it Automation probably won't lead to massive unemployment, but governments will still need to prepare for major upheaval, according to a new study. The reference is on the tip of your tongue, so let's just put it out there: The age of Voltron, the earth-defending robot made up of smaller tiger robots, is nigh. In order to accomplish the task, the robots must collaborate autonomously and elect one of their own as a leader. Once combined, the merged robots actually share the equivalent of a single brain and a single robotic nervous system.