We’ve all heard of small flying or wheeled robots that can collaborate on tasks by working in “swarms”. Researchers at Harvard University have now taken it one step further, by developing tiny underwater robots that can collectively learn like fish.
Called Bluebots, each fish-inspired robot integrates two wide-angle cameras and three high-visibility blue LEDs. They swim by flapping their tails and moving their fins.
Combining the output of two cameras for 3D computer vision, each Bluebot can determine the distance, direction and direction of all other Bluebots in the water tank, relative to itself. Therefore, using custom algorithms to analyze that data, the Blueswarm collective can perform actions such as aggregating, scattering, and circular swimming.
“If we want the robots to regroup, then each Bluebot will calculate the position of each of its neighbors and move towards the center,” said candidate Dr Florian Berlinger, first author of the study, said. “If we want the robots to scatter, Bluebots do the opposite. If we want them to swim like a school in a circle, they are programmed to follow the lights right in front of them clockwise.”
In a demonstration of the applicability of search and rescue technology, the Bluebots were programmed to scatter across their tanks, until one came close enough to the red light to detect the presence. its appearance. That robot then began flashing its LEDs, triggering the rest of Blueswarm to gather around it.
And while Bluebots itself likely might not be able to rescue anyone, the core technology could also be applied to larger, much more capable underwater autonomous robots. It can also be used in applications such as environmental monitoring of ecologically sensitive areas, or studying fish learning behavior.
“Robots are often deployed in areas that are inaccessible or dangerous to humans, areas where human intervention cannot even be done,” Berlinger said. . Utilizing underground rules and 3D visual perception, we are able to create a system with a high degree of autonomy and flexibility under water where things like GPS and Wi-Fi cannot be accessed. . “
An article on the research, performed in Professor Radhika Nagpal’s laboratory, was recently published in the journal. Robotics.
The Bluebots can be seen in action, in the video below. And for examples of other underwater robots working together, check out CoCoRo and SwarmDiver bots.
Source: Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Swarms of robots swim like fish