The MIT technology review has recently written an article about a new programming language that allows you to control an individual robotic machine and/or an entire swarm.
One of the more fascinating sights of an autumn evening is the flocking behaviour of starlings as they lurch and swoop in extraordinary demonstrations of aerodynamic synchronisation.
It turns out that these complex displays come about as a result of a simple set of rules that govern how the birds fly relatively to each other. Indeed, this flocking has been relatively straightforward to simulate on computer for many years.
But it has never been repeated with flying robots or ground-based ones for that matter, for two reasons. First because nobody has built robots with the same agility and speed. But even with less agile robots, the task is tricky because of the second reason: there is no easy way to control such a flock.
The first factor is changing rapidly. Cheap, capable robots—flying or otherwise–have caused an explosion of interest in flocks and swarms. Numerous researchers, hobbyists and artists are experimenting with these machines and hoping to study and exploit and the swarming behaviour they generate.
These groups are all finding that controlling large numbers of identical robots is something of a challenge. And in the absence of an established programming language, they are having to tackle the same problems in the same ways. In other words, they are re-inventing the wheel.
Today, Carlo Pinciroli at the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada and a few pals say they have developed a programming language for just this purpose. “We present Buzz, a novel programming language for heterogeneous robot swarms,” they say.
To read more please visit the MIT tech review website.