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Swarm OS: Collective Intelligence for Robots

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One of the most impressive presentations on Kentucky technology festival was put on by… a group of several dozen robots. They demonstrated astonishing abilities to act independently, as if they formed a single big organism that needed only minimal remote control. This was made possible by Swarm OS, developed by James McLurkin, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The system of communication between robots is modeled on that which operates in the families of bees and ants: neighboring individuals transmit a signal to each other and the whole huge group behaves as a single unit.
In a system of collective intelligence, the coordinated and intelligent behavior of a group is determined not so much by the intelligence of individuals as by the developed language of their interaction. For example, the same ants can mentally add and subtract only small prime numbers, but The symbolic language of ants is very advanced. It involves the transmission of numbers and formulas, the assignment of constants for frequently occurring formulas (to reduce traffic between individuals), etc. Bees are able to transmit to each other the exact coordinates of objects (taking into account the position of the Sun) through a dance. Each hive has a specially equipped place where the scout bee performs circular and wagging movements upon its return to the family, after which all congeners know the exact coordinates of a distant object.
Swarm OS for robots is a kind of complex language of group animals, although in a greatly simplified form, because the language of ants and bee dance was formed tens of millions of years ago and has not yet been fully deciphered.
Evgeny Morozov, who was present at the festival, in his blog recounts McLurkin’s presentation in detail He says that at the scientist’s command the robots lined up on the stage, then he ordered the robots to scatter in different directions and fill the stage-they did that, too. One little problem, however, was that the robots had no control over their distance from their nearest neighbor, so when they got out of range of the radio signal they simply fell out of the grid.
Swarm OS has a built-in search engine so that any robot can find any other robot by its ID number. Other robots help him in his search. At the end of the presentation, the robots left the stage in the order of their numbers.
Collective intelligence for robots is a highly sought-after technology. It can be used to organize rescue operations after natural disasters or, for example, in the process of lunar and Mars exploration, which will start in the coming years.

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