Wandering chatterboxes

Richard Vaughan plans to launch 33 robots around the Simon Frazer University in Canada, by next spring.

The robots are 12 centimetre cubes that can see with infra-red eyes and communicate with flashing lights and sound – hence their name “chatterbox.”


They are designed to work together on projects with no human intervention. One of their first jobs will be to map the building where they live. They will wander and take measurements, but they will also have to remember to get recharged. When they do need a sport of power, two large mother robots will deliver electricity to them. Vaughan wonders how the robot will behave, “Should a chatterbox running low on power madly drive around looking for a mother, or should it just stand still and scream for a fill up? Should it compete with other robots for mother’s attention? Should it be aggressive?

Vaughan does not expect his robots to rely only on logic. “Animals – including humans – do not act in optimal ways,� says Vaughan, “but they often act as if they are optimizing things.� Vaughan looks to animal behaviour for robot programming ideas and he finds aggression to be very useful – especially aggressive display behaviour.

Via The Engineer and SFU news.