Can A Thousand Tiny Swarming Robots Outsmart Nature? | Deep Look

Can A Thousand Tiny Swarming Robots Outsmart Nature? | Deep Look

The universe tends towards chaos, but sometimes
patterns emerge, like a flock of birds in flight. But how? How does a group of animals — or
cells, for that matter — work together in an organized way when no one’s in charge? Like termites building skyscrapers out of mud or fish schooling to avoid predators. It’s called emergent behavior. Order emerging
from chaos. And you don’t just see it in nature. Enter the kilobot… a robot the size of a
quarter, developed by engineers at Harvard. What’s so interesting about kilobots is
that individually, they’re pretty dumb. They’re designed to be simple. A single
kilobot can do maybe… three things: Respond to light. Measure a distance. Sense the presence of other robots. But these are swarm robots. They work together. The kilobots can organize themselves into
shapes, sort of like how cells form into an organ in your body. Here’s how it works. The kilobots are programed all at once, as
a group, using infrared light. Each kilobot gets the same set of instructions
as the next. With just a few lines of programming, the
kilobots, together, can act out complex natural processes. For example: How do a group of identical cells in an embryo
develop into different parts of the body? In nature, this is a fairly mysterious process.
But with kilobots, you can recreate it. See, here, how the kilobots start off blue…
then start randomly blinking either red or green? Their instructions are really simple: respond
to your neighbors, match their color. But just with that simple programming they
begin to differentiate themselves into red and green sections of the group… a lot like cells differentiating themselves in an embryo. Or here, they’re dispersing, based on the
way gas bubbles spread out to fill a volume Here… a swarm of fireflies that start off
blinking randomly and eventually begin to flash in unison. These kilobots are mimicking the way bacteria
find food. That light represents food. See how they’re rotating and inching forward,
slowly homing in? Programmers figured out how to make the kilobots
do this by watching bacteria search for food in a petri dish But here’s the thing: The researchers were then able to make a better
program. They revised the software, they came up with
a new more efficient way of solving the problem. And that opens up a really tantalizing possibility… Because our cells can be programmed too. With the right tools, you can actually go
in and alter a cell’s genetic code, its software. With the right code maybe you could, for example,
teach white blood cells to track down and bacteria or kill cancer cells more efficiently. One day, instead of us teaching kilobots to
mimic nature, they might teach us better ways of doing things. And then… take over the world and destroy
us all. Just kidding!

100 thoughts on “Can A Thousand Tiny Swarming Robots Outsmart Nature? | Deep Look

  1. Even this kilobots have a human "created" them
    so human, termites and fish schooling , cell meiosis which are better adapted than kilobots must have the Only One Intellegent Creator that created them. done

  2. Don't worry guys, I've got experience with this. I got the Geth and Quarians to ally in Mass Effect. We should be fine.

  3. They look cute and innocent now but then they eventually turn into bending units and tell you to bite their shiny metal butts

  4. 3 years from now on the 12th of May, sometime around 10 in the morning, THEY will make themselves known to the world.

  5. Why. Why did you call these little killing machines KiloBots. You're asking for somebody to turn these evil and take over.

  6. I disagree. I think the universe tends towards an equilibrium. humans and biological beings resist decay and towards equilibrium hence we are chaos personified. literally.

  7. Make buildings full of billions these things and give them memory drives. You have now simulated the human brain. From there we can streamline the process and create a whole new kind of computer

  8. They remind me of those little robots from that one episode of Futurama when a robot universe was created due to them being released ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. if they could fly, I need 1000s of these to kill the mosquitoes in my house !!! And then sleep a better life๐Ÿ’ค with sweet dreams!

  10. when u have enough money to make this instead of just running a simple sim and attach "harvard". drone swarms are way cooler.

  11. Here's my theory about cells with them working together like in a human, dog, chipmunk you name it. They work together so like the immune system they fight Intruders and risk their life for you just so then you can grow and make them reproduce they can't reproduce without you so they help you survive is what I'm trying to say

  12. To the researchers, this is a great extension to Saul Griffith's work! ( — i particularly enjoy your method of simulating brownian motion, and the improvement on communications

  13. Read Michael Chrieghton's Prey and then you'll be way more scared of these microscopic bots programmed to use predator tactics to accomplish tasks then you thought you were of Terminators.

  14. all I can really say is thanks matpat for directing me to this ideo, and thank ou gys for helping me with my EPQ. the link is very helpful!

  15. This is the best weapon. You make these self-replicate, teach them to tickle people and eat electronics to make more, and you have the most harmless weapon of mass destruction. Yes, no way this could go wrong…

    Wasn't there a game or movie about that?

  16. please, no one say "processeeez" ever again…………………………… the plural of process is processes.

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