Synchronicity in Robots Achieved Using Bacterial Behavior

dancing robotsKeeping in sync for us, human beings is a really tough thing to execute, and this feat is even much harder for robots. This is common knowledge for us humans; we don’t need to be experts to know this fact. In more recent times, a new approach had enabled these mechanical entities–the robots–in step, which also makes the robot who loses balance be able to join the synchronicity of its companions as if nothing happened.

A method to achieve synchronization with a certain group of functional robots for one another to communicate their positions, but the lesser proximity of the robots to each other will result to delays in time. With that said, there’s also an issue about the quantity of robots, since the increase of the communication network’s complexity is directly proportional to the number of robots involved. To avoid such, the MIT researchers have been given a certain degree of inspiration from bacterium synchronicity–their behavior of not communicating with one another; instead they check with their surroundings.

Robots working in perfect sync have the potential to work excellently with vital functions such as rescue operations where it’s common that they get damaged and must therefore be replaced, which could be derived from the words of Paola Flocchini, a computing expert in distributed systems at the University of Ottawa, in Canada.

Quorum Sensing, which releases a constant stream of signaling molecules into the surroundings and at the same time enables the detection of the same molecules, are used by a wide variety of bacteria to achieve a certain degree of coordination. When a specific number of bacteria is present, concentration of the signaling molecules increase, which would trigger their group functions: their genes get flipped and the change of behavior is in sync.

Deriving from this, the MIT’s Jean-Jacques Slotine and Patrick Bechon had made 8 human-like robots performing a dance, which aims to achieve synchronicity by having each of them send and receive information from a computer server.

The robots had executed cycles of actions, which includes the bobbing of their heads, and sent information about their positions to the server while performing the cycles. The server, in turn, returns the average value of this obtained information to each of the robots present. So, if another robot joins in, it will first check with the server the actions of its fellow robots. With that, it calculates the next movements in the cycle, which enables it to join the group. Also, the the musical information, which happens to be Michael Jackson’s world-renowned “Thriller” in this test, is also included to the information disseminated information to the robots in participation.

With an incorporated math that defines the body parts’ oscillating movements, like the arms and the heads, is ingenious, derived from Mehran Mesbahi, from the University of Washington in Seattle’s words, whose field of research is in line with spacecraft navigation and control. The incorporation of information pertaining specific angles, positions and music is very difficult, than having a simple command like “March”.

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