Swarm Robotics, or: The Smartness of 'a bunch of cheap dumb things'
Not only recent Science Fiction – e.g., Star Trek Beyond (USA 2016) – celebrates the capacities of robot collectives. Also RoboCup, an annual robot soccer competition, or Harvard University’s Kilobot Project show stunning examples of the central idea behind Swarm Robotics: »[U]sing swarms is the same as getting a bunch of small cheap dumb things to do the same job as an expensive smart thing« (Beni/Wang 1989). This article examines some crucial aspects of the techno-history of a research field which intertwines engineering and biological knowledge and whose applications deal with compelling questions about synchronization and self-organization in changing environments – on the ground, in the air, and under water.
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