Miniature Robot ‘Smart Swarms’ Inspired by Nature Could Soon Flow Through Our...

Miniature Robot ‘Smart Swarms’ Inspired by Nature Could Soon Flow Through Our Bodies

image provided by pixabay

This post is also available in: heעברית (Hebrew)

Researchers developed “smart swarms” of miniature robots after drawing inspiration from nature, observing ant colonies, fish schools, and beehives. These mini-bot swarms collaborate through engineered social interactions that enable them to function as a cohesive unit, allowing the collective to overcome obstacles and dangers better as a team than their individual selves.

According to Interesting Engineering, the dynamics of collective motion are influenced by factors like density, perturbation, velocity, boundary, and time delay – which is inherent in every system due to finite information transmission among agents, and significantly affects collective behaviors.

The research team explains that fixed time delays bring a tradeoff between persistence and responsivity in collective motion, and that this understanding is crucial for designing effective collective systems that balance the need for sustained movement while quickly responding to environmental cues.

Previous studies show that properly incorporating time delays can enhance the persistence of collective structures in noisy environments, offer alternative explanations for observed behaviors in nature, and aid advancements in swarm robotics. However, it may reduce the swarm’s responsiveness to nontrivial external stimuli because the agents might struggle to distinguish them from noise.

The researchers reportedly programmed an adaptive time delay feature in the robot swarms, a feature that uses an optical feedback system with controlled light patterns to collectively drive these microrobots. This enabled every microrobot in the swarm to modify its mobility in response to environmental changes, and this indeed made the swarm show a significant increase in responsivity without decreasing its robustness.

This tech could potentially be integrated into larger machinery with adaptive time delay techniques, a strategy that could greatly improve the operational efficiency of autonomous drone fleets. They would potentially be able to follow and communicate with each other similarly to schools of fish, eliminating the need for any centralized control that needs additional data and energy to run.

Paper co-author Zhihan Chen explained in a statement that while individual nanorobots are vulnerable to complex environments and struggle to navigate effectively in challenging conditions (like bloodstreams or polluted waters), collective motion allows them to navigate those environments more effectively and efficiently, reaching targets while evading obstacles and threats.

Looking to the future, the researchers claim that these intelligent swarms, one developed, could be “sophisticated drug delivery systems” that find their way through the body and get past its defenses to deliver medication to the intended location.