We've seen how robot can collaborate before, but usually they are tested in a closed and controlled environment. A team from the Free University of Brussels created a crack team of 60 robots called the Swarmanoid that is designed to work together to adapt to their environment and complete their objective.
The Swarmanoid is comprised of three types of actuated robots that are all pretty cool in their own right. First off, there's the hand-bot with twin gripping clamps on a rotating arm that allows it to climb, and it also has a little grappling hook it can attach to ceilings. Then there's the foot-bot, which is basically a Roomba-type robot that does not vacuum, but instead broadcasts topography data and maps a route. Last is the eye-bot, a flying camera with 8-rotors that can also attach itself to the ceiling.
The robots need to work together, because while the hand-bot can grab it can't move, vice-versa for the foot bot, and the eye-bot is only good for scouting ahead. After the eye-bot has found the objective it networks with other eye-bots to form a daisy chain of beacons for the foot-bots to zero-in on. The foot-bots move out to find a path on the round and signal for other foot-bots attached to a hand-bot to follow. Once the hand-bot is in position it can climb the shelf, grab the book, and bug out. Mission accomplished!
The Swarmanoid project was headed by Dr. Marco Dorigo, with the funding of the European Commission, and the short film you see above won the Artificial Intelligence Video Competition in San Francisco last week.
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This story, "Team robot Swarmanoid completes mission impossible" was originally published by PCWorld.