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Harvard Licenses Technology For Tiny Swarming Robot

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the own-the-swarm dept.

Robotics 38

Zothecula writes "Do you think that you'll never be able to afford a robot of your own that isn't a toy? Well, if you can get Swiss robot-maker K-Team Corporation to sell you one, chances are you can easily afford a Kilobot — perhaps even a whole bunch of them. Designed and first built by Harvard University's Self-Organizing Systems Research Group, the three-legged robots aren't much larger than the 3.4-volt button cell batteries that power them, and move by vibrating across smooth, flat surfaces. They were created to study robotic swarming behavior, with the intention that tens, hundreds or even thousands of them could be used simultaneously in one experiment. Harvard has just announced that it has licensed the Kilobot technology to K-Team, which will commercially manufacture the robots so that other groups and institutions can purchase them for their own research."

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Then, let's teach them... (5, Funny)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182140)

...to build copies of themselves. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Then, let's teach them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182350)

No problem, they're designed from the ground up to be three laws safe. [youtube.com]

Re:Then, let's teach them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182356)

Big Brother Is Watching You.

Re:Then, let's teach them... (5, Funny)

Trubadidudei (1404187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182372)

They're already one letter away from being killbots. Mark my words, soon they will travel around in packs and vibrate people to death.

Re:Then, let's teach them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38183030)

Now someone should post the xkcd about that and get +5 funny.

Re:Then, let's teach them... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38183262)

My wife will love those.

Re:Then, let's teach them... (2)

icemanwol (2446776) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182728)

So would that make them "Replicators"? I had better go get Amanda Tapping so she can save us all!

Re:Then, let's teach them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38186574)

I know we're supposed to hate Michael Crichton because of State of Fear, but am I the only one who read Prey?

Is this a first post I see before me?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182150)

I, for one, think many women may welcome our new robotic, swarming, vibrating, overlords...

Re:Is this a first post I see before me?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182234)

I, for one, think many women may welcome our new robotic, swarming, vibrating, overlords...

Do they have a niggerdick version? The Apple fanboys might like that too!

This Apple lover, he's so dumb
Defends their products no matter what
He bends over and here it comes!
My favorite corporate anal slut.

Reliability (3, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182196)

Moving using vibration could be hard on those tiny legs. What is the lifetime if these things?

And for what purpose? (2)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183282)

Why use these when you can just simulate them? Designing/training the AI would much more interesting than seeing if it can be carried out by this particular design.

Re:And for what purpose? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183322)

I guess they do use simulations to refine the original design as it's way faster, but eventually every algorithm has to be tested IRL. Simulations are imperfect.

Oh, great... (2, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182232)

Just what we need... Killbots.

Re:Oh, great... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182342)

Costello : Finally, a KillAbott.

Re:Oh, great... (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183366)

That joke is going to miss most of /. I'll just pre-emptively 'whoosh' for anyone else who posts in reply.

Re:Oh, great... (1)

quietlikeachurch (984657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183918)

Hey! Not all of us are uncultured hooligans...

Re:Oh, great... (1)

jamiesan (715069) | more than 2 years ago | (#38193622)

So I throw the ball to Kilobot.

No! Who!

I don't know!

THIRD BASE!

Re:Oh, great... (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182780)

"Ladies and gentlemen, my Killbot features Lotus Notes and a machine gun. It is the finest available."

Re:Oh, great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182936)

If its anything like my Lotus Notes then we are completely safe. It will vibrate...crash....vibrate....crash

Re:Oh, great... (2)

Cinnamon Whirl (979637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183406)

Not a problem, we can outsmart them:
"Killbots have a pre-set kill-limit. Knowing their weakness, I sent wave after wave of my own men at them, 'till they reached their limit and shut down"

Can build yourself... (3, Informative)

HizookRobotics (1722346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182424)

There's a long history of home-made steerable vibrobots [hizook.com] . You can probably make one of these from parts readily available in your junkbox.

A quick tangent: I've seen these in person. They're pretty cool, but I'm not sure what "technology" Harvard is licensing. Perhaps just the PCB design and code?

Re:Can build yourself... (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182480)

It's not just the motion but also the communication using reflected lights.

Re:Can build yourself... (1)

HizookRobotics (1722346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183232)

I understand that they can communicate using reflective infrared light. My TV remote can do the same thing to reach a non-line of sight receiver. I believe they also use the reflected IR light for rudimentary distance sensing -- much like the Sharp IR sensor modules. What I'm trying to say: the hardware aspects of this project are fairly well-established -- as far as I can tell, there are no new "hardware" technologies (but I am a fan of readily-available low-cost robots). The Harvard group's big contribution (re:research) is in swarm algorithms.

Re:Can build yourself... (1)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183312)

Well, the things are ~$1200 for 10, so someone's making money, I bet.

I want one (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182538)

The coin! Looks foreign to me. If that's a robot the coin must be a huge. I want one.
Hope they ship to The Netherlands!

Re:I want one (1)

Spugglefink (1041680) | more than 2 years ago | (#38187508)

The coin! Looks foreign to me.

That's a US quarter dollar coin. Wikipedia says they're 24.26 mm in diameter. FYI.

Why is academia permitted to sell their discoverie (3, Insightful)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182626)

-s?

Isn't the whole point of academic research the free and open sharing of knowledge? But universities obtain patents then sell exclusive licenses to them, despite the research generally being done at taxpayer expense.

Re:Why is academia permitted to sell their discove (4, Informative)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182850)

Here is the IP policiy of the NSF: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/manuals/gpm05_131/gpm7.jsp#730 [nsf.gov]

This project in particular was funded by the NSF and the Wyss Institute, which looks like some sort of incubator funded by Harvard. The gist of the NSF policty is that the grantee retains all rights to the invention/patents/copyrights of the research. This makes sense given the NSF's mission statement: "To promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense...."

Re:Why is academia permitted to sell their discove (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38190524)

The robot design is also open source under a creative commons license that lets you make your own ...

Favoritism is shown in licensing ... (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183018)

Isn't the whole point of academic research the free and open sharing of knowledge? But universities obtain patents then sell exclusive licenses to them, despite the research generally being done at taxpayer expense.

The licensing can be done is a way that favors the taxpayers as well. For example the University of California is quite aggressive about patenting discoveries and licensing the patents. The terms of the licensing is far more favorable if you are a startup or small rather than a large established corporation, if you are local, etc. I'm not sure but there may also be consideration for companies that support research at the university or employ its students.

Half the fees collected go to the UC system in general and one quarter to the department that made the discovery. The remaining quarter to the researchers who made the discovery.

Re:Why is academia permitted to sell their discove (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38187078)

Its the monopoly empire that makes the 1% .. and its the monopoly empire that deny the 99%..

Misleading Summary (2)

Smurf (7981) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182758)

TFS says:

Do you think that you'll never be able to afford a robot of your own that isn't a toy? Well, if you can get [...]

Cool. Clearly these "three-legged robots (that) aren't much larger than the 3.4-volt button cell batteries that power them, and move by vibrating across smooth, flat surfaces" are very useful if you are "studying robotic swarming behavior" and I bet people can come with several other fields where these mini-robots could be of practical use.

But then, most of us would be able to come up with several experiments which would make practical use of any of the many robots that are currently sold as toys. And some of those experiments would without any doubt be commendable research projects.

Unfortunately most of us do not work in those areas of research where the Kilobots (or any other commercially available, reasonably priced robot) are applicable. For 99.9% of the people, Kilobots are nothing more than FREAKING TOYS!!

I, for one... (1)

heretic108 (454817) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182782)

(/me ducks)

Futurama Reference (1)

notcreative (623238) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183670)

Oh well, we can always build more Kilobots

Tiny swarming robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38184070)

WILL KILL US ALL!!!

true religion jeans (1)

cheap true religion (2053288) | more than 2 years ago | (#38187280)

go ahead to check out your cheap brand jeans, www.ebyjeans.com, true religion jeans
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