A team from the Free University of Brussels has made a robot capable of working together with its siblings to make a larger robot.
In order to accomplish the task, the robots must collaborate autonomously and elect one of their own as a leader. Once combined, the merged robots actually share the equivalent of a single brain and a single robotic nervous system.
“By adopting a modular approach, robots with different capabilities, shapes, and sizes could, in theory, construct and reconfigure themselves as required,” say the authors of the paper on mergeable robots published in Nature Communications.
It’s a step forward for swarm robotics, a field in which multiple autonomous systems act in cooperation with one another. The effect is often achieved with a minimum of programmed instructions, mimicking swarm behavior in birds and fish.