OMG! This is pretty amazing. Welcome to your now. These kilobots were designed by Michael Rubenstein, a research scientist at the Self Organizing Systems Research Group at Harvard. The mini robots are programmed all together, at once, using infrared light. They use signals from each other to act out some of the complex natural processes that we see in animals, such as the swarming of insects, birds, or fish. Apparently all of this happens with just a few lines of code. Check out the youtube demo below. I have posted some additional links for more info at the bottom.
Here is some text from the SOSRG website, link also below:
“In nature, vast groups of individual elements can cooperate and assemble to create highly complex global behavior through local interactions — from multicellular organisms to complex animal structures such as army ants bivouacs and flocks of birds. In the field of robotics, researchers use inspiration from collective intelligence in nature to create artificial systems with capabilities observed in natural swarms. Researchers have designed tiny robots, inspired by ants, bees, and cells, envisioned to work together in large swarms or as programmable materials. Nevertheless, there still exists a substantial gap between the conceptual designs and the realized systems. Creating engineered systems with similar abilities poses challenges in the design of both algorithms and physical systems that can operate at such scales. There is a vast body of work on algorithms meant to control collectives of hundreds or even thousands of robots, however, for reasons of cost, time, or complexity, they are validated in simulation only, or on a group of a few 10s of robots.”