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

May 08, 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: Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

More information: *… ect&project_id=10341

via IEEE

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

Apr 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.

Kilobots bring us one step closer to a robot swarm

Jun 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 ...

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

Apr 01, 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 ...

Brainless bristlebots found to exhibit swarming behavior

Mar 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 ...

Recommended for you

Future US Navy: Robotic sub-hunters, deepsea pods

Mar 28, 2015

The robotic revolution that transformed warfare in the skies will soon extend to the deep sea, with underwater spy "satellites," drone-launching pods on the ocean floor and unmanned ships hunting submarines.

Festo has BionicANTs communicating by the rules for tasks

Mar 27, 2015

Germany-based automation company Festo, focused on technologies for tasks, turns to nature for inspiration, trying to take the cues from how nature performs tasks so efficiently. "Whether it's energy efficiency, ...

Virtual robotization for human limbs

Mar 26, 2015

Recent advances in computer gaming technology allow for an increasingly immersive gaming experience. Gesture input devices, for example, synchronise a player's actions with the character on the screen. Entertainment ...

Robots on reins could be the 'eyes' of firefighters

Mar 25, 2015

Researchers at King's College London have developed revolutionary reins that enable robots to act like guide dogs, which could enable that firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings could save vital ...

Robot revolution will change world of work

Mar 24, 2015

Robots will fundamentally change the shape of the workforce in the next decade but many industries will still need a human touch, a QUT Future of Work Conference has heard.

User comments : 0

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.