Science Visualized

Robot swarm takes many shapes

Kilobots follow simple rules to take the form of a wrench and more

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4:15pm, August 26, 2014
swarm of Kilobots

ALL TOGETHER NOW  With a simple set of instructions, these Kilobots can assemble and form different shapes, without human intervention. 

hundreds of Kilobots in shape of a wrenchView the video

One Kilobot is not very smart. Each quarter-sized bot scuffles along on three rigid legs and can communicate only with its neighbors. Yet by instructing more than 1,000 Kilobots to follow a few simple rules, computer scientist Radhika Nagpal and her team at Harvard can get the crude bots to assemble into multiple shapes — including a wrench (left), a star and the letter K — without human intervention.

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