Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Submarines to Swarm Intelligently

First, there was the 1966 science fiction classic Fantastic Voyage featuring a team of people in a miniturized submarine injected into a person's bloodstream to repair brain trauma.

Forty years later, an actual research program at New Mexico State University's RioRoboLab, is working to develop tiny robotic submarines that imitate swarm behavior and intelligence. Swarm intelligence and behavior are exhibited naturally by ant colonies, bees, flocks of birds, herds of wild animals on an African safari and a multitude of biological systems including schools of fish, according to graduate student Matthew King. Groton submariners may remember the schools of untold thousands of tiny fish completely encircling the hull of your pierside vessels. In an instant the direction of all the fish would change inexplicably from CCW to CW or vice versa.
Anyone who can identify the fish, please let us know, that includes our friend PigBoatSailor from the Discomfort of Thought.

"Small, radio-controlled submarines will be placed inside of a large fish tank to mimic a school of fish. The submarines should be able to move in a coordinated fashion inside the fish tank without running into each other or the walls of the tank," King said.

RioRoboLab director Ram Prasad said swarm behavior is fundamental to all biological systems, and swarm intelligence is the ability to adapt and survive self-evolution through time. In other words, it is basically a robotic fish - "a RoboFish to give it a robotic flavor," Prasad said. Prasad said the RoboFish will have sonar and light sources as possible means of navigation and collision avoidance.

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