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Science. 2014 Aug 15;345(6198):795-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1254295. Epub 2014 Aug 14.

Robotics. Programmable self-assembly in a thousand-robot swarm.

Author information

1
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. mrubenst@seas.harvard.edu.
2
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Abstract

Self-assembly enables nature to build complex forms, from multicellular organisms to complex animal structures such as flocks of birds, through the interaction of vast numbers of limited and unreliable individuals. Creating this ability in engineered systems poses challenges in the design of both algorithms and physical systems that can operate at such scales. We report a system that demonstrates programmable self-assembly of complex two-dimensional shapes with a thousand-robot swarm. This was enabled by creating autonomous robots designed to operate in large groups and to cooperate through local interactions and by developing a collective algorithm for shape formation that is highly robust to the variability and error characteristic of large-scale decentralized systems. This work advances the aim of creating artificial swarms with the capabilities of natural ones.

PMID:
25124435
DOI:
10.1126/science.1254295
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