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Robot swarm takes many shapes

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

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. 

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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.

The demonstration, reported in the Aug. 15 Science, is the closest scientists have come to mimicking cooperative swarms in nature, such as ants that clump together to form makeshift rafts (SN

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