Swarm robots with four legs created by scientists

Scientists have developed four legged swam robots capable of maneuvering in challenging environments and accomplishing difficult tasks collectively, mimicking their natural-world counterparts.

To develop these robots, researchers first hypothesized that a physical connection between individual robots could enhance the mobility of a terrestrial legged collective system. Individual robots performed simple or small tasks such as moving over a smooth surface or carrying a light object, but if the task was beyond the capability of the single unit, the robots physically connected to each other to form a larger multi-legged system and collectively overcome issues.

Using a 3D printer they first built four-legged robots measuring 15 to 20 centimeters, or roughly 6 to 8 inches, in length. Each was equipped with a lithium polymer battery, microcontroller and three sensors — a light sensor at the front and two magnetic touch sensors at the front and back, allowing the robots to connect to one another. Four flexible legs reduced the need for additional sensors and parts and gave the robots a level of mechanical intelligence, which helped when interacting with rough or uneven terrain.

The robots were also tested over shag carpeting, and rectangular wooden blocks were glued to particle board to serve as rough terrain. When an individual unit became stuck, a signal was sent to additional robots, which linked together to provide support to successfully traverse obstacles while working collectively.

Improvements are still being made on the design, but expects the study’s findings will inform the design of low-cost legged swarms that can adapt to unforeseen situations and perform real-world cooperative tasks such as search-and-rescue operations, collective object transport, space exploration and environmental monitoring.

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