This self-organizing swarm was created in the lab of Radhika Nagpal, Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The advance is described in the August 15 issue of Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6198/795).
Following simple programmed rules, autonomous robots arrange themselves into vast, arbitrary shapes. They use the same kind of robots that we use in Swarm-Organ, kilobots, to build two-dimensional shapes with a thousand-robot swarm. In fact, only a few robot swarms to date have exceeded 100 individuals, because of the algorithmic limitations on coordinating such large numbers, and the cost and labor involved in fabricating the physical devices. The research team overcame both of these challenges through thoughtful design.