This is a project funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies program of the European Community which focuses on the design and the implementation of self-organizing and self-assembling biologically-inspired robots.
A swarm-bot is an aggregate of s-bots (mobile robots able to self-assemble by connecting/disconnecting from each other) that can explore, navigate and transport heavy objects on rough terrains in situations in which a single s-bot would have major problems to achieve the task alone.
How do they do that? Let's take a look.
Here is the design of a single s-bot.
And here is a swarm-bot made of several assembled s-bots passing a fosse.
Researchers say that they have now completed the hardware design. So what about the future?
They are following two different but complementary research directions in order to develop the control systems of a swarm-bot.
One consists in building control systems that mimic the characteristics of biological systems such as social insects. The other consists in building control systems that are only loosely inspired by what we know about real organisms and develop their ability through a self-organization process based on artificial evolution.
These researchers think that potential applications of swarm-bots include space or underwater exploration.
For more information about the concept, please look at this Swarm-bots hardware page. It also contains many more pictures.
Source: Stefano Nolfi, Jean-Louis Denebourg, Dario Floreano, Luca Gambardella, Francesco Mondada and Marco Dorigo, ERCIM News No. 53, April 2003
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