Wandering chatterboxes

1 min read

Thirty $1,000 robots that can see with infra-red eyes and communicate with flashing lights and sound will be wandering around a Canadian University lab by the spring.

Richard Vaughan, an assistant professor of computing science at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada, builds robots for a living.

And thanks to funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and SFU grants, by the spring of 2006, 30 of his latest creations called chatterboxes will be running around the place.

The $1,000 robots are 12 centimetre cubes that can see with infra-red eyes and communicate with flashing lights and sound – hence the name chatterbox.

Vaughan’s robots are designed to work together on projects with no human intervention. One of their first jobs will be to map the building where they live. They will wander all over the place, taking measurements, but above all they will have to remember to get recharged. When they do need a sport of power, two large mother robots will deliver electricity to them.

Until now, Vaughan and his graduate students have been simulating robot swarms with software called Player/Stage, an open source robot control and simulation package Vaughan co-authored.

With the robots up and running by Spring, Vaughan will finally get a chance to see how swarms behave in the real world.