A Princeton postdoc working in conjunction with researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania recently presented "an interactive multi-robot painting through colored motion trails," to illustrate their studies into swarm robotics. For the video demonstration, a team of twelve robots equipped with various paint combinations was tasked with illustrating a sunset... which, well, it sorta looks like that, if you squint your eyes and tilt your head just right...
Twelve robots, infinite paint splotches — "The robotic painting system is composed of a team of mobile robots equipped with different color paints able to create pictorial compositions by leaving trails of color as they move throughout a canvas," explains researcher, María Santos, in her presentation. She continues:
The robots distribute themselves according to such color densities by means of a heterogeneous distributed coverage control paradigm, whereby only those robots equipped with the appropriate paint will track the corresponding color density function... The painting composition therefore arises as the integration of the motion trajectories of the robots, which lay paint as they move throughout the canvas tracking the color density functions.
In layperson's terms, the experiment ran nine setups of twelve robots, each with varying access to cyan, magenta, and yellow paints. A human programmer entered in a color movement pattern for the robots to follow. Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, the robot teams with less paints in their toolkits generated far more chaotic, rudimentary renderings, as opposed to the groupings with full access to the various hue combinations.
Good, clean robot fun — Look, maybe it's because it's Monday and the world remains on fire for the foreseeable future, but color us somewhat unimpressed (See what we did there? That's about as creative as you're gonna get from us right now). The twelve-robot "swarm" of kindergarten-level finger painters doesn't strike us as particularly imposing, especially not when compared to, oh, we dunno, a quadruped kill-bot that can literally drag you to Hell. Definitely not as worrisome as honest-to-God murder boats, either.
Okay, okay. Sorry. We're just grumpy, and maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here. The research does present some interesting examples of robotic teams cooperating according to human input, which is definitely cool to see in real-time. Also, it's nice to see robots used for good, with little reason to suspect they'll become sentient and drown us in cyan paint anytime soon... which is probably just what they're hoping we think. Alright, just let us know when our dystopia gets the Android Ro-Bob Ross it truly deserves.