Even robots like Beethoven

Swarm technology is an interesting venture – it’s based on behavior seen in nature. The way it generally works goes like this: There is one leader, let’s use a bee in this example. The leader bee leaves the hive. Several bees follow the leader. Several more bees follow the following bees. It goes on in this way so that bees are following each other, not the original leader. The opposite would be something more like a symphony orchestra, with every musician following the conductor, not the adjacent violinist.

Scientists are trying to adapt this behavior to robotics. There’s been some success in the toy industry, with modular robots such as Cubelets; each cube robot relies on the one in front of it to act out a certain task. But researchers want to take it further.

The Georgia Institute if Technology created Khepera bots, little two-wheeled robots, and programmed them to play Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” The robots don’t touch like Cubelets; instead they communicate wirelessly. There is one lead robot that knows the musical score. That lead robot communicates to the robots closest to it where to go to play a note. They each communicate to the robots closest to them. The idea is to minimize the distance the robots have to travel, and not send one bot scurrying across the board unnecessarily.

Check out the classically trained bots below. They’ve still got a long way to go before “Moonlight Sonata,” but at least they won’t get their knuckles slapped by wooden rulers.


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