Small swarm of robots could do tasks

March 28, 2013 at 7:56 PM
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SHEFFIELD, England, March 28 (UPI) -- Swarms of robots acting together to carry out jobs could provide new opportunities for humans to harness the power of machines, British researchers say.

Scientists at the Sheffield Center for Robotics say the ability to control swarms of small robots could prove hugely beneficial in a number of fields from military to medical.

Researchers at the center have been working to program a group of 40 robots and have demonstrated the swarm can carry out simple fetching and carrying tasks by grouping around an object and working together to push it across a surface, the University of Sheffield reported Thursday.

The programming to control the robots is deceptively simple, the researchers said; for example, if the robots are being asked to group together, each robot only needs to be able to work out if there is another robot in front of it. If there is, it remains on the spot; if there isn't, it moves in a wider circle until it finds one.

"We are developing Artificial Intelligence to control robots in a variety of ways," researchers Roderick Gross said. "The key is to work out what is the minimum amount of information needed by the robot to accomplish its task.

"That's important because it means the robot may not need any memory, and possibly not even a processing unit, so this technology could work for nanoscale robots, for example in medical applications."

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