IF YOU'VE ever watched Power Rangers or Battle of the Planets (yes, yes, Gatchaman, you geek) and thought "that'll never happen", prepare to be amazed as boffins have created robots that you can get to team up when they touch to make a bigger bot.
In a paper published in Nature, the mini-bots are able to work independently, or can team up without the potential problem of a single "head bot" failure bringing down the whole network.
Basically, the bots can all be the leader or a drone. Proximity causes them to nominate a leader and team up in a variety of shapes and combos.
"Take moving on a very rocky terrain, for example," lead author Marco Dorigo, a research director at IRIDIA, the AI lab of the Brussels Free University told Popular Science. "One alone would get stuck, but attached to each other they become more stable and they can move on the rough terrain."
Of course, we're far more interested in how this technology can be utilised in the next series of Robot Wars and how loud Jonathan Pierce's voice will go when they Megazord up, but that's just us. This is real science.
The point of the experiment isn't even the teaming robots as such - it's the idea of handing off control for the greater good. Or as we humans call it, teamwork.
And there's enough intelligence that if the lead bot is unable to perform satisfactorily, he can be "relieved of command".
In this case, the bots communicate over good ol' WiFi, but in the future, they could link over Bluetooth mesh.
"The important thing is that the paper is not about these specific robots," says Dorigo. "The robots that are presented in the paper are just one example. The paper is about the technology that makes the coordination and the self-healing that our robot displayed possible." µ
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