Brussels Team In World Robotic First

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Finding a book in a library can sometimes be a tricky venture especially if the book is not in the expected place. If the institution operates a Dewey Decimal System, you might as well give up.

Following a successful round of experiments researchers at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, led by Dr Marco Dorigo, have found a way of successfully retrieving lost tomes. Researchers at the university have created a team of robots called Swarmanoids that have succeeded in finding books from a shelf.

“In the future the robots could be set more difficult tasks. For instance, a bot team equipped like firefighters could wait in a building and spring to action when disaster strikes,” he said.

Swarmanoids come in several different types and they communicate via infrared and LED lights. Known as aerial eye-bots, ground foot-bots, and climbing hand-bots they talk to each other to accomplish the mission. In the experiments the robots knew nothing of the environment before they were given a task.

To start with, the eye-bots scope out the environment for the target. Each room is fitted out with a magnetic ceiling so that the eye-bots, which can fly, use this to gauge range. Once the target is located, the eye-bots send a signal to the foot-bots which form a line between the hand-bot and the target. The foot-bots then communicate to the hand-bot can make its way to the book.

Two foot-bots then attach to the hand-bot to escort it to the target. Once at the book shelf, the foot-bots detach, and the hand-bot shoots a magnetic-tipped string up to the ceiling. With the line for stability, the hand-bot begins its ascent. After the hand-bot grabs the book, it lowers itself back down to safety.

The experiments follow earlier research by Dr Dorigo on swarm intelligence.