Boulder swarm effort turns to crowdfunding for Droplet mobile robots (w/ video)

May 8, 2014 by Nancy Owano weblog

University of Colorado, Boulder researchers seek to build a swarm of Droplet robots and have turned to crowdfunding. They have been working on a robotic platform to study swarming behavior; their goals are to test swarming algorithms on a large scale, bring Droplets into college classrooms, use Droplets to teach K-12 science, and provide Droplets for artistic use. John Klingner, PhD candidate, computer science, said "We are ready to scale up" and they would now like to buy parts and pay for 1,000 robots to be assembled. Droplets are an experimental research and educational platform, for large-scale swarming research, using an MIT License

A Droplet is a small mobile . The platform features include moving and communicating omnidirectionally. The platform has three components, the hardware, the embedded software and the software simulation environment. The required infrastructure includes a powered floor. The hardware component includes the actual robot and the test bed/floor that experiments are run on. The robots are Ping-Pong ball sized devices. They have RGB color and IR sensing, actuation using vibration motors and communication, using analog/digital IR sensors.

Nikolaus Correll, assistant professor, , said that after working on this they have now reached a stage where they want to mass-produce them. The team has used a promotional video to highlight the potential educational value of their Droplets platform. Klingner spoke about bringing the technology to a wider arena of students. He talked about their hopes in giving small groups of students, say, 30 robots, with which they could test out some simple swarm algorithms individually and then, at the end of the course, bring all 300 or so robots together for a more complex task. Correll said the Droplets would be valuable for use in high schools as well: "We are also looking to collaborate with local high schools in the area and use the swarm" to teach them not only about swarms but maybe also about organic chemistry, math, geometry and the immune system.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

His interest in the Droplets project reflects his deeper interest in what such scientific exploration can reveal. "The entire world is actually a swarm so everything you see is just a swarm of atoms working together and at some point those atoms make a cell and at some point those cells make molecules; they make brains; they make livers; and hearts." At the end of the day, he said, "all of these things are swarms." As such, Correll said he was "very curious to understand what the principles and mechanisms are that drive these things." Taking these robots and programming them, he added, might increase an understanding of how to recreate such phenomena.

In addition to educational value, Klingner noted that one of the things they were thinking about is mapping an oil spill. Anshul Kanakia, PhD candidate, computer science, noted a scenario where one is out in the ocean, not knowing where the spill begins, and wanting a good realtime map of the spill. Each individual robot could make a guess, all go up and surround it and "talk" to each other.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Explore further: Kilobots bring us one step closer to a robot swarm

More information: *

via IEEE

Related Stories

Kilobots bring us one step closer to a robot swarm

June 17, 2011

( -- When you think about robots, the odds are that you think about something that is fairly large. Maybe you picture a robot arms bolted to the floor of a factory or if you are feeling particularly dramatic maybe ...

Brainless bristlebots found to exhibit swarming behavior

March 15, 2013

( —A robot research team at Harvard University has found that tiny robots that move by vibrating bristle strands when grouped together, form spontaneously into groups—exhibiting, what the team describes as swarming ...

Computers teach each other Pac-Man (w/ Video)

April 1, 2014

Researchers in Washington State University's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science have developed a method to allow a computer to give advice and teach skills to another computer in a way that mimics how a ...

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

April 16, 2014

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Recommended for you

Dutch create world's largest man-made wave

October 5, 2015

In a country where most people live below sea level, studying the oceans is a matter of survival. Now Dutch scientists have created the world's biggest man-made wave in a bid to prepare for the worst.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.