Swarm of Robots Could be Future of Medicine and Military, Researcher Says [VIDEO]

First Posted: Mar 28, 2013 07:14 PM EDT

British researchers are currently developing robot swarms that could ultimately lead to a better understanding of how a group of machines could work together in order to fulfill any given task, providing insight into how humans can harness the power of machines.

Researchers in the Sheffield Centre for Robotics, have been working to program a group of 40 robots to work together as a group in order to perform various tasks, including pushing balls and navigating simple obstacles.

The researchers at the center, which was established by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, believe that having the ability to control robot swarms could prove hugely advantageous in a range of contexts, from military to medical.

The team of robotic experts began with a simple goal of creating robots capable of identifying the position of nearby robots. The robots attempt to identify a nearby robot and if none exist, it turns and begins moving in the opposite direction, part of a strategy to find other robots. Then, once one robot has discovered another, it can choose whether to create a group to accomplish a task or remain a single unit, the researchers said in a statement.

"We are developing Artificial Intelligence to control robots in a variety of ways. The key is to work out what is the minimum amount of information needed by the robot to accomplish its task," said study author Dr. Roderich Gross, head of the Natural Robotics Lab at the University of Sheffield.

"There are a lot of swarm systems in nature that you may be aware of like a flock of birds, a school of fish or even the brain itself can be seen as a swarm system," Dr. Gross noted.

Dr. Gross also believes the swarming robots may be an important cpart of the future of micromedicine, as 'nanobots' are developed for non-invasive treatment of humans. He also noted they could play a part in military, or search and rescue operations, acting together in areas where it would be too dangerous or impractical for humans to go Meanwhile, robot swarms could be put to use in the workplace, improving manufacturing processes and workplace safety. 

This research is funded by a Marie Curie European Reintegration Grant within the 7th European Community Framework Programme. Additional support has been provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Watch a video below of Dr. Roderich Gross explaining how these swarm robots operate:

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