A Low Cost Scalable Robot System for Demonstrating Collective Behaviors
In current robotics research there is a vast body
of work on algorithms and control methods for groups of decentralized
cooperating robots, called a swarm or collective. These algorithms are
generally meant to control collectives of hundreds or even thousands
of robots; however, for reasons of cost, time, or complexity, they are
generally validated in simulation only, or on a group of a few 10s of
robots. To address this issue, we present Kilobot, a low-cost robot
designed to make testing collective algorithms on hundreds or
thousands of robots accessible to robotics researchers. To enable the
possibility of large Kilobot collectives where the number of robots is
an order of magnitude larger than the largest that exist today, each
robot is made with low-cost parts and takes 5 minutes to
assemble. Furthermore, the robot design allows a single user to easily
oversee the operation of a large Kilobot collective, such as
programming, powering on, and charging all robots, which would be
dificult or impossible to do with many existing robotic systems. We
demonstrate the capabilities of the Kilobot as a collective robot,
using a 29 robot test collective to implement some popular swarm
For more details on the robots, see the
papers and videos below. For information on how to
purchase or make your own kilobot swarm, see the links below!
Kilobot: A Low Cost Scalable Robot System for Collective Behaviors
Michael Rubenstein, Christian Ahler, Radhika Nagpal
IEEE Intl. Conf on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2012. (pdf) and
(longer but older tech report, 2011)
Kteam sells groups of robots, controllers, and
charging stations - picture on the right is courtesy of Sabine Heurt,
MIT. Several groups are starting to use kilobots, for example CAC Research Group
at Aalto University, Finland, to test different distributed
algorithms. Contact Kteam to purchase your own swarm!
Build some yourself:
If you would like to build your own Kilobots, all the
software and hardware details are available under a Creative Commons
attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)
license. The documents can be found here. The
design is fairly simple and this is a great and affordable option if
you plan to make a large number of robots.
Introduction to Kilobot
The following video describes the features of each Kilobot robot, and how they can be controlled in a group.
Demonstrations using a small number of Kilobots
This video demonstrates some of the capabilities of the Kilobot such as: communication, distance sensing, locomotion, and on-board computation. All demonstrations are fully autonomous, without any human controlling the robots.
Demonstrations of Kilobot collective behaivors on up to 29 robots
The following video shows a Kilobot collective of up to 29 robot demonstrating some popular collective behaviors such as follow-the-leader and foraging.