BOBbots: tiny robots that can perform tasks in groups
Accurate computer simulation complements the experimental platform as a way to study the inconvenient aspects of the system in laboratory research. The researchers said that despite the simplicity of BOBbots, they found that as the robots move and collide with each other, they form compact aggregates that can collectively move and clean up heavy debris that cannot be moved by a robot alone.
Daniel Goldman, a researcher on the project, said that most researchers build increasingly complex and expensive robots to ensure coordination. The goal of his team is to see what complex tasks can be accomplished with very simple robots. The researchers of this project were inspired by a theoretical model of particles moving on a chessboard. This theoretical abstraction is called a self-organizing particle system and is used to strictly study the mathematical model of tiny robots.
Researchers have used the ideas of probability theory, statistical physics, and stochastic algorithms to prove that the theoretical model has undergone a phased change of increasing magnetic interaction. Researchers discovered that BOBbots suddenly changed from being scattered to gathering in large and compact clusters, similar to the essential changes seen in everyday objects such as water and ice.
In the end, the rigorous analysis the researchers used allowed them to show how to build BOBbots and revealed the inherent robustness of their algorithms, making some robots malfunctioning or unpredictable. Part of the funding for the researchers’ work is provided by the Department of Defense.