These are some of the first steps toward creating huge herds of tiny robots that form larger structures?including bigger robots. Building swarming robots can also help scientists understand collective behavior seen in nature, from bird flocks and fish schools to networks of cells and neurons.
In the past, researchers have only been able to program at most a couple hundred robots to work together. Now, researchers at Harvard University have programmed the biggest robot swarm yet.
"It's really a big accomplishment," said roboticist Hod Lipson of Cornell University, who wasn't involved in the work. "It's the first demonstration of this swarm robotic behavior at the scale of 1,000 physical robots." Getting even tens or a hundred robots to work together is difficult, with a lot of algorithmic and technical challenges, he says.