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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsThis is a simple robot called e-puck that we have been using for a while. And it has two wheels, a left wheel and a right wheel, so it can move forward, turn around, turn on the spot, and so on. It also has a camera right here in the front, and this camera is useful for the robot to understand where are the other robots, if there are other objects of interest in its world. What you're going to see now is how a bunch of these robots are solving a task together. They are clustering a group of red objects and bringing them all into one spot. So this is a bit like collecting litter, right?

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsThe fascinating thing about this is that these robots are very, very simple. So, what information do they actually have about the task? They have this camera, and using this camera they scan, just in front of themselves, whether there is an object in front of them that they have to cluster, another robot, or simply nothing. So there's just three different situations, and they only discriminate between these situations. And depending on whether they see another object, another robot, or nothing, they behave in different ways. So they have preprogrammed motion primitives. For example, one of these could be turn towards the left, and so on.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 secondsAnd they simply map the input that they perceive through their line of sight sensor directly onto their action, which is this motion primitive. As a consequence, these robots do not require the ability to store information during run time, and they also do not even need to compute like plus, minus and so on, because the controller is really just mapping from the input to the output. Biological systems are really good at solving tasks under a lot of constraints. They need to solve tasks with very little energy, for example. And by studying robots that are inspired by biological systems, we can potentially build very simple robots that yet accomplish complex tasks.

Team work and swarms

Swarm robotics provides another mechanism for the coordination of multi-robot systems. In robot swarms, a desired collective behavior emerges from the interactions between the robots and interactions of robots with the environment.

In this video, Dr Roderich Gross introduces us to the e-puck and explains how, with very little brain power, these robots can work together to successfully achieve a complex common goal.

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This video is from the free online course:

Building a Future with Robots

The University of Sheffield

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