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Engineers from Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS, US) built a swarm of 1024 robots that are programmed to build different shapes. At first glance you might think it is masses of ants working behind you or cells that are forming an organ. In reality you see 1024 robots that are moving in a large wooden square complete with edges to stop them waddle off the edge. Engineers call the swarm “Kilobots” like the kilobyte with 1024 bytes. Each robot is a 3cm across and cylindrical and has an infrared light emitted overhead to communicate with other robots in Kilobot. Within 10cm distance robots use the infrared light to send messages to one another and take the right direction in the swarm. Everything starts when 4 robots are put in the place where the required shape is need to be formed and random selection of robots capable to move in the swarm start their slowly movement. Already on the move robots choose the direction taking into account the past experience and what their neighbors are currently doing. It doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes but at the end they build the required shape in 6 to 12 hours.
The purpose of the creation was to experiment large number of robots working together in one group to solve different tasks. Scientists intended to use them in different projects like cleaning an environment, helping in disasters or forming millions of self-driving cars in the highway. Currently, creators are looking for ways to bring this new technology to the production. Meanwhile, UK researchers are impressed with the project and are sure easy usable well designed algorithm is needed for a large numbers of robots to realize more difficult tasks. In 2012 when the robots first unveiled they attracted huge interest among different groups of people. However, today they only cost $100 each.