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AI Robotics United Kingdom

How Could Swarms of Robots Help Humanity? 67

Posted by timothy
from the terrible-secret-of-space dept.
ceview writes "Researchers at Sheffield Centre for Robotics have demonstrated that a swarm of 40 robots can carry out simple fetching and carrying tasks. This is done by grouping around an object and working together to push it across a surface. They believe that this could provide opportunities for us mere humans to harness such power to do all sorts of things like safety — what like catching falling workers perhaps? Youtube action here."
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How Could Swarms of Robots Help Humanity?

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  • Rep. Young (Score:4, Funny)

    by alphatel (1450715) * on Friday March 29, 2013 @12:55PM (#43312921)
    My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 skinjobs to fetch tomatoes. You know it takes two people to fetch the same tomatoes now.
    • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

      Two people doing the same amount of work as 50 or 60 Cylons?
      Stop your shit-talking you Colonial elitist.

  • swarms of robots.

  • SImple fetching and carrying tasks?
    Let's replace the Federal Government with uncorruptable simple robots. Constituents concerns can be tablulated by computer to steer voting in the Congress and Senate. Office flunkies and staffers go without saying. Entire Agencies could go robotic. The White House has had Repubmocrat bots for around a century now, this could be replaced with a party neutral machine with much nicer latex skin than the past models have had.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Constituents concerns can be tablulated by computer to steer voting in the Congress and Senate.

      I like this: tyranny of the geeks who can hack the computers.

  • Tora Bora (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tailhook (98486) on Friday March 29, 2013 @01:21PM (#43313219)

    The next time we need to hunt down someone in a cave complex we can use a drone swarm to autonomously explore all the holes. We'll only need the giant thermobaric bombs once the right caves are identified.

    Yay drone swarms.

    • The next time we need to hunt down someone in a cave complex we can use a drone swarm to autonomously explore all the holes. We'll only need the giant thermobaric bombs once the right caves are identified.

      Yay drone swarms.

      Who is "we?" I have never in my life needed to hunt anyone down, let alone in a cave complex.

      FWIW - careful what you wish for.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday March 29, 2013 @01:22PM (#43313233)

    >> humans to harness such power to do all sorts of things like safety — what like catching falling workers perhaps

    Doubt it. However, I could see a bunch of these being loosed by a in a war zone: individually find the big metal ship, clump together beneath the waterline, go boom. Or, to clear the way for a raid, something like for the next 6 hours, find all the moving human-like shapes, get close, go boom (or clump at doors, go boom).

    • What a horror that would be, the new sound of terror is a high pitched mosquito-like whine. I'm fairly sure there are rules against targeting civilians in war though, and this would go right over the line.

  • What other use would there be for a swarm of evil, er, I mean, mini robots at my command?

    Hmm, I suddenly feel a bout of particularly malevolent laughter coming on...

  • They don't seem to be able to accomplish much or cooperate very well. Better work with swarm robots has been done.

    One of the better robotics ideas of the 1980s was a pair of small (about 1 cubic foot) robots with small forklifts. They could cooperate to move large objects, like a couch. One was in charge, and one was the helper. Once both robots were in position, force feedback and very limited communication was enough to coordinate them.

    That's a useful concept to develop further today. In the 1980s, n

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      One of the better robotics ideas of the 1980s was a pair of small (about 1 cubic foot) robots with small forklifts.

      I think I saw that movie .. you're describing Wall-E aren't you?

  • They believe that this could provide opportunities for us mere humans to harness such power to do all sorts of things like safety

    En anglais, s'il vous plait.

    what like catching falling workers perhaps?

    Oy vey.

  • Picking Weeds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MpVpRb (1423381) on Friday March 29, 2013 @01:39PM (#43313369)
    If a robot could be designed that could distinguish weed from crop, it would eliminate the need for most herbicides and herbicide resistant GMO seeds
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If a robot could be designed that could distinguish weed from crop

      Sometimes weed is crop

    • If a robot could be designed that could distinguish weed from crop, it would eliminate the need for most herbicides and herbicide resistant GMO seeds

      If a robot could be designed that could distinguish weed from crop, it would eliminate the need for most herbicides and herbicide resistant GMO seeds--*as long as the robots were not significantly more expensive than the herbicides*. That's the tricky part.

      • If a robot could be designed that could distinguish weed from crop, it would eliminate the need for most herbicides and herbicide resistant GMO seeds

        If a robot could be designed that could distinguish weed from crop, it would eliminate the need for most herbicides and herbicide resistant GMO seeds--*as long as the robots were not significantly more expensive than the herbicides*. That's the tricky part.

        Or cause more pollution issues, or some other unforeseen consequence. A bad firmware update that kills 80% of a nations crops would be devastating.

  • This is done by grouping around an object and working together to push it across a surface.

    Ah, I can see the future now: Instead of developing expensive autonomous driving vehicles, you order a bunch of cheap robots that push you to work every day!

  • once apon a time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Osgeld (1900440)

    most inventions were made out of necessity to solve a problem, now we make shit and sit there looking at it going "wut now?"

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "most inventions were made out of necessity to solve a problem"
      false.
      most invention where from, someone meddling around.
      The example that stands out is electromagnetism.

  • Loki: I come with glad tidings of a world made free.

    Nick Fury: Free from what?

    Loki: Freedom.

  • by eap (91469)

    How Could Swarms of Robots Help Humanity?

    Of course they would help. Unless they went crazy and started hurting people. Which they almost certainly would.

  • Missing the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hammeraxe (1635169) on Friday March 29, 2013 @02:08PM (#43313607)

    I think most people here are missing the point. I doubt the aim of his research is to develop things that are immediately useful. It is more about understanding the behaviour of complex multi agent systems. A lot of systems around us follow this same model. For example, the economy is just the sum of the actions of many "simple" agents. This research aims to look into exactly that. Really it is amazing that few simple agents without any higher form of control can accomplish anything when their behaviour is based on maybe 2-3 rules.

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Friday March 29, 2013 @02:11PM (#43313625)

    The goals of this research are very simple and very controlled. Take for example the pushing of the box. It was one box in a pristine room with one target. The pushing algorithm is extremely simple. Move randomly until you can not see red and then move toward the last location that you saw red.
    What happens if there is a small obstacle on the floor and the object can not be pushed straight toward the floor?
    What happens if the targets not visible from the object?
    What happens if there are several possible targets and several possible objects to push?
    How do the robots know when to stop pushing?
    Sure simple robots with simple programming given simple tasks in a simple environment will work. The real world is rarely that simple. As one throws more real world parameters into the situation the complexity rises exponentially.

    They believe that this could provide opportunities for us mere humans to harness such power to do all sorts of things like safety — what like catching falling workers perhaps?

    Is that worker in an uncontrolled fall or are they jumping? When you add decision making into a process it becomes much more complex than pushing or sorting.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      gosh, no one in robotics or computing ever thought about those things~

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        You missed my point. Problems of this complexity are assignments for second year computer science students and nothing new.

  • By tracking down and eliminating all the stupid ones?
    Or all members of Congress.
    But I repeat myself.

    • By tracking down and eliminating all the stupid ones?
      Or all members of Congress.

      They might decide "all of us" fits the definition better.

      In fact, I think I've see a little-known movie on this very topic. "Eliminator", or something.

  • Combine swarm robots and nanotechnology and you could have a way to non-surgically (or at least outpatient procedure) remove tumors. Maybe inject them through an IV?
  • by azav (469988) on Friday March 29, 2013 @04:42PM (#43314789) Homepage Journal

    Pick up trash.
    Mow lawns.
    Sort trash to determine recyclables.
    Fix potholes.
    Paint over graffiti.
    Repair underground infrastructure - gas and water pipes.
    Detect leaks in underground infrastructure.
    Remediate contaminated soil.

    So many options.

  • Could guard airspace, self refuel, bring down drones, and make an impenetrable shield!

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay

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