Dubbed one of 35 Innovators Under 35 by MIT Technology Review, University of California’s Nora Ayanian studies robot coordination. Programming machines to better cooperate with each other has implications for a range of industries, including home automation, environmental monitoring, manufacturing, and the military.
Take drones, for example. A farmer who wanted to deploy aircraft to survey his crops and take soil samples wouldn’t program each drone with the same set of commands, as each drone would have its own set of tasks, skills, and problems to navigate.
Therefore, in order to enhance robotic group dynamics, Ayanian took her cue from people.
The young computer scientist had groups of humans play a simple video game that limited their senses and communication with each other, observing how individuals cooperated on tasks with as little information as possible and finding that they are driven by the need to do “something meaningful” together.
Teams that learn how to work together, therefore, will always be better at problem-solving than, say, simply programming one machine to direct the others. (Besides, what happens to the overall system if the Robot Overlord runs out of power or crashes?)
Check out the video of Ayanian’s coordinated drone teams at work, a resulting aerial dance that’s rather hypnotic to watch.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense