Friday, February 14, 2014

Swarming Robots Could Be the Key to Colonizing Space

We like autonomous robots because they can do the things we can't or don't want to do. Justin Werfel, a researcher at Harvard University, calls it the "Three Ds—dirty, dangerous, and dull." And, these intelligent bots can get work done in places we aren't able to go—like other planets. 

Werfel is part of a team of Harvard engineers designing an autonomous robot construction crew that can build structures without any human intervention or supervision. The latest research, published today in Science magazine, shows off the artificially intelligent bots building towers, pyramids, and staircases. It's the first step to putting robot swarms to work in hard-to-reach places like disaster zones, under the sea, or in outer space. 

Swarming robots that can self-organize and self-assemble already hold a lot of promise for things like search and rescue, disaster relief, even manufacturing. And they’re getting better at working together. But this is the first time a team of bots have been able to build 3D structures bigger than themselves—a breakthrough in robotic construction, researchers say. 

"If you want to build underwater, if you want to build a Mars base, it's going to be very difficult, dangerous and expensive to send people," Werfel said in a news release. "But if you could send a team of robots to go build the habitat as the first step—that's the really long-term vision." 

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