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Small robots can’t move by themselves but slide when they team up


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Little robots shaped like staples called “smarticles” can’t move around on their own, but researchers have now found that they can randomly form structures with other robots to move about


23 June 2022

Tiny robots shaped like jiggling staples can form structures that help them move more easily even when they are programmed to push each other away.

Simple robots shaped like staples can form structures that help them move more easily

Akash Vardhan/Georgia Institute of Technology

Small robots that have two flapping arms and can’t move around on their own can spontaneously link up and glide together instead. This self-organisation may be related to how complex structures arise from simple building blocks in nature.

Daniel Goldman at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and his colleagues used small robots called smarticles – short for “smart active particles” – to observe self-organisation in the lab.

Each smarticle consisted of three 5-centimetre-long bars attached at right …

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