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Meet the tiny robot that spontaneously dances



Interacting in a limited space, a group of

Interacting in a limited space, a group of “little people” can form a spontaneous choreography.
image: Courtesy of Thomas Berrueta

In January 2020, the laboratory on the second floor of Northwestern University was filled with soft knocks, including three robots Around each other. Although the small robot is not a variant of rock music, the Socks Orchestra, the three are in a small ring when they hit each other. These are smart, active particles (“small objects”), equipped with two paddle-like flaps, with a span of less than 6 inches between the ends, and are marked to track their position and direction. The little bugs experience chaotic movements that are unpredictable and unpleasant until they gracefully transition again and again into the recognized coordinated movement: a dance.

No specific instructions were programmed for Smarticle, nor were they told to be friendly to each other. The robot was prescribed the movement pattern of the drive or flap, which was unexpectedly replaced by a dance-like sequence.A paper describes these patterns and the physical principles behind them Published today in the journal Science. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the James MacDonald Foundation and the Army Research Office.

When the Smarticles are out of sync, “there is a chaos of flapping and collisions throughout the ring, fascinating to watch, but certainly not in order,” Thomas Berregretta is a robotics expert at Northwestern University and a co-author of the paper, in a video call. However, in collaboration with MIT physicist Pavel Chvykov and physicist Jeremy England (Jeremy England) who was previously at MIT and now at Georgia Institute of Technology, the research team programmed the smart car to Simultaneously execute the driving mode.

“Suddenly, they were going through this beautiful spinning parade,” BurrEuropean Unionta said. “As someone who has smart people who haven’t done it before, it feels like [Chvykov] Come use my own tool magic. “

There is order in many places in the natural world, such as flocks of birds or water crystallizing into ice, but it is predicted to be a beast in an unbalanced environment, where external forces are at work. (To be clear, an unbalanced world is the wide world outside the window-this is a vast field compared to the feats achieved in a predictable laboratory environment). In the 1870s, a Swiss physicist named Charles Soret conducted experiments and the results showed how a salt solution in a test tube heated on one side would cause a greater amount on the colder side particle. Because the molecules move more violently on the hot side of the tube, more molecules end up on the colder side. Cooler molecules, with their clever movement, will not end up moving so fast. This means that particles eventually accumulate on the cold side of the tube. The principle called hot swimming is an example for England and Chivikov when they see objects in a so-called low-speed shaking state.

The rattle refers to the movement of matter using the energy flowing into it. According to England, the louder the rattle, the more random or convulsive movement, and the lower the rattle, the more intentional or gradual the movement. Both may be correct.

England said in a statement from the Georgia Institute of Technology: “The idea is that if your material and energy sources allow a low ratchet state, the system will randomly rearrange until it finds that state and then get stuck there.” “If you Providing energy through a force with a specific pattern means that the selected state will find a way of moving matter that closely matches the pattern.”

In this case, the pattern is the prescribed flap movement, and the moving objects that match the pattern are the robots rotating and moving around the ring around them and clapping each other. These small flaps are a good testing ground and can prove that the low-speed state produces a stable, self-organizing dance. Unlike other muses, think tanks have no molecular sources of self-ordering behavior (such as how water turns into ice at a certain temperature). Other variables that play a role in crystals give way to other interpretations of ordering, and obscure the less tricky ideas the research team wants to test.

England said that because these intelligent cerebellums only move by touching each other (they cannot step or move around), there are fewer and fewer unknowns about where the mobility of objects comes from, if all intelligent cerebellums have small engines to push them to dance. When robots can only move by pushing each other, you know that the movement you see is the result of collective behavior.

Arvind Murugan, a physicist at the University of Chicago, said in an email: “This article proposes a general principle that complex systems naturally tend to minimize behavior.” “Current applications on robots show that this idea survived the first contact with reality. But future work will have to prove whether this principle can be well approximated by other complex systems-from molecules to cells. The crowd at the rock concert (after the COVID of course).”

Murugan added that the principle is not always correct, “it is only approximately correct when it is correct.” However, the idea executed by the robot shows that under the action of this driving force, they will dance at low speed shaking.

“Once there are a bunch of robots that interact with each other and with people… the idea of ​​this article is that they sometimes synchronize. When they synchronize, there will be emergency behavior, but you don’t necessarily know what the emergency behavior will be. “If we Unwilling to take emergency behavior as the basic result, and we should always expect a sufficiently complex system in such an unbalanced state, then we will miss what can reasonably happen. “

The meaning of robot movement is not just to perfect your DDR technology. Although there are only three insidious devices when rotating, these smart cars still show a principle that can be applied to self-driving cars and even to the humans in them.


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