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Tech Roundup

August 22, 2014

A swarm of tiny robots work together to solve novel challenges.



77656_web Courtesy Mike Rubenstein and Science AAAS.

Kilobots. (Mike Rubenstein and Science/AAAS)

Harnessing tiny brains to do great things. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A single bee isn’t very smart, but a bee colony manages to build a hive and make honey. In the journal Science, Harvard researchers describe their Kilobot project, in which tiny individual robots with very little brain power can work together to arrange themselves into complex shapes, like a star or the letter K. It’s a bit like a robot flash mob, and working out how the simple machines can cooperate most effectively will be the first step toward designing teams of robots to complete complicated tasks.

In other news, Australian researchers report why sewer pipes are corroding and failing in urban areas worldwide: sulfur-based chemicals used to make water safe to drink. The chemicals form acids that eat away at concrete pipes. They say that replacing the chemicals with cheap alternatives could save billons of dollars. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.