Sep 152013


Swarm robotics researchers at Rice University gather data with online game

The next experiment from Rice University’s Multi-Robot Systems Laboratory (MRSL) could happen on your desktop. The lab’s researchers are refining their control algorithms for robotic swarms based upon data from five free online games that anyone can play.

“What we learn from the game and our lab experiments applies directly to real-world challenges,” said Aaron Becker, a postdoctoral researcher at MRSL. “For example, if a doctor had a swarm of several thousand microscopic robots, each carrying a tiny payload of anti-cancer drugs, might it be possible to have them all converge on a tumor using magnetic signals from an MRI machine?”

In the games, players use simple commands to move groups of robots through mazes and around obstacles. Sometimes the goal is to push a larger object to a particular spot. Other times the goal is to move the collective to a target or to have it assume a specific shape. Each time a game is played, the website collects information about how the task was completed. Becker said the data will be used to develop new control algorithms for robot swarms.

“The data from these games will help us better understand how to use multi-robot systems with massive populations to perform coordinated, complex tasks,” said lab director James McLurkin, assistant professor of computer science at Rice.

To demonstrate the kind of complex behaviors that can be achieved with simple commands, Becker videotaped an experiment over the Labor Day weekend in which a swarm of a dozen randomly scattered r-one robots were directed to form a complex shape — a capital R. To direct the robots, Becker used a basic controller — a simple one-button, ’80s-era videogame joystick that was capable of giving only two commands: rotate and roll forward.

“The robots are all connected to the same joystick, so each robot received exactly the same commands,” Becker said.

The experiments were the latest to use the r-one, an inexpensive yet sophisticated multi-robot system that McLurkin began designing in 2009. Each bagel-sized r-one has a radio, a motor, two wheels, dozens of sensors and onboard electronics. R-ones are up to 10 times less expensive than previously available research-grade swarm robots.

In the Labor Day experiment, Becker’s control algorithm directed each r-one in the swarm to a unique, pre-programmed, end position. The algorithm did this by taking advantage of slight differences in each robot’s response to the two simple commands. In a computer simulation, Becker also showed how the same technique could be used to direct a 120-robot swarm to both spell out “Rice” and display the shape of the university’s owl mascot.

“The controller commands all the robots to rotate, and prior to giving the forward command, the controller measures the location and orientation of each member of the swarm with an overhead camera,” Becker said. “The algorithm collapses all of that information into a single number — a measurement of error — and tries to make this error as small as possible.

To reduce the error measure, the controller exploits “rotational noise.”

“Each time the joystick tells the robots to turn, every robot turns a slightly different amount due to random wheel slip,” Becker said. “The controller uses these differences to slowly drive the swarm to its goal. This is where the algorithmic results are critical. It might take thousands of individual commands to produce a complex shape, but the proof shows that the algorithm will always produce the desired goal positions.”

“It’s counterintuitive,” McLurkin said. “Common sense would seem to indicate that you’d need to issue individual commands to each robot to move the group into complex patterns, but that is not the case. The beauty of the algorithm is that each simple move brings the entire group closer to the goal.”

He said the demonstration is the first step toward a more ambitious goal.

“Aaron’s new work is aimed at using environmental obstacles to perform more complex tasks and to simultaneously control hundreds or thousands of robots,” McLurkin said. “That may sound like science fiction, but Rice chemist James Tour is developing massive populations of nanorobots right now, just two buildings over. His group can build many trillions of these in a single batch.”

Read more . . .


The Latest on: Swarm robotics
  • DARPA awards first contracts in drone swarms project
    on February 21, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    “We imagine seeing swarm tactics where you’ll be conducting reconnaissance with a swarm of air and ground robots. Or identifying ingress and egress points, or perhaps identifying novel ways to construct a perimeter of an area of operations,” Timothy ... […]

  • Robotic bees fitted with GPS trackers could be used to pollinate crops, scientists claim
    on February 19, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    But an expert warns they could be hacked and used to deliver fatal poison “stings”. Scientists have developed a swarm of robotic bees that can help to pollinate crops Three quarters of crops, including apples and almonds, rely on insects for pollination. […]

  • South Korea Highlighting Robotics Leadership at Winter Olympics
    on February 19, 2018 at 7:12 am

    with eleven different types of robots – eighty five, in all – in action at the Olympics. And that’s not counting the swarm of drones featured in the Opening Ceremonies. A humanoid robot known as HUBO made history by being the first robot to carry the ... […]

  • The U.S. Military Will Have More Robots Than Humans by 2025
    on February 19, 2018 at 7:08 am

    The strategy also states that, by that time, the Army will have a cadre of robots at its service including “swarm robots” that will be “fully powered, self-unpacking and ready for immediate service,” along with advanced artificial intelligence ... […]

  • Mid-Valley schools practice for robotics competitions
    on February 19, 2018 at 6:02 am

    ... competition ready robots for the upcoming FIRST Robotics Competition season, the middle of February can be a stressful time as the final few days of their six-week build season run out. Members of SWARM, the combined robotics team for South and West ... […]

  • “Smarticle” Robot Swarms Turn Random Behavior into Collective Intelligence
    on February 18, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    “We know what we want the collective to do, but in order to program it we need to know what each agent must be doing on the individual level,” said Melvin Gauci, a researcher at Harvard working on swarm robotics. “Going between those two levels is ... […]

  • Spirit animals: 9 revolutionary robots inspired by real-world creatures
    on February 18, 2018 at 9:00 am

    With swarm intelligence, multiple MantaDroids [could] also be deployed to concurrently perform search operations, such as looking for lost divers or sunken objects in the sea.” Speaking of underwater robots, how about this effort from Italy’s Sant ... […]

  • Northrop Grumman Seeks Participants for Swarm-based Tactics Test Bed Platform
    on February 13, 2018 at 9:50 am

    “We are applying cutting-edge technologies in robotics, robot autonomy, machine learning and swarm control to ultimately enhance our contributions to the warfighter.&rdquo […]

  • Want to make a robot that can't be killed? Look to the cockroach
    on February 13, 2018 at 2:32 am

    In addition to disaster relief and infrastructure inspection, the military has been eagerly studying the utility of agile swarm robots, a dramatic departure from a current war fighting doctrine based on large, immensely complex platforms like fighter jets ... […]

via Google News and Bing News

Other Interesting Posts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: