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A robot swarm is a collection of similar robots where each is autonomous but also able to coordinate their movement and activities with the entire group. Typically a single robot in the swarm will be equipped with environment sensors like cameras and radar.
Recent experiments with robot swarms incorporate AI algorithms that enable them to be adaptable, decentralized, self-organizing, and to change their motion and actions in response to their environment. Research at the Harvard Wyss Institute has coined the name ‘kilobots‘, or one thousand (ie. many) robots swarming and interacting together.
Possible uses (both good and bad) of robot swarms include:
- Surveillance – mapping and search and rescue missions in difficult-to-access areas
- Agriculture – deploying biopesticides and use of lasers to combat weeds and pests
- Infrastructure inspection – inspection of bridges, gas lines, railways, roads and other infrastructure
- Entertainment – robots and drones that dance and fly and can form patterns of illumination like fireworks
- Logistics – Grocery and warehouse order fulfillment
- Activities in Uninhabitable Locations – proposal to use swarms to build underground shelters on Mars
- Military/Political – killer robotic drones