Abstract: In nature, groups of thousands of individuals cooperate to createcomplex structure purely through local interactions -- from cells that form complex organisms, to social insects like termites that build meter-high mounds and army ants that self-assemble into bridges and nests, to the complex and mesmerizing motion of fish schools and bird flocks. What makes these systems so fascinating to scientists and engineers alike, is that even though each individual has limited ability, as a collective they achieve tremendous complexity.
What would it take to create our own artificial collectives of the scale and complexity that nature achieves? In this talk I will discuss some of our past and ongoing projects that use inspiration from biological self-assembly to create robotic systems, e.g. the Kilobot swarm inspired by multi-cellular morphogenesis and the BlueSwarm project inspired by the dynamic behaviors of fish schools. There are many challenges for both building and programming robot swarms, and we use these systems to explore collective autonomy and embodied intelligence. Our theme is the same: can we create simple robots that cooperate to achieve collective complexity?