Zooids Zoom Around Your Desktop
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Saturday, 29 October 2016

Zooids are your new user interface and I for one welcome our new UI overlords... The idea of using swarm robots to implement physical user interfaces isn't completely new but Zooids are a new take.



They don't just sit on your desk and rearrange themselves slowly they scoot about at high speed and can even push other things around on your desk.

So usual is the speeded up videos in robotics at first I thought I was watching at x2 or x3 video. These do appear to be in realtime. Take a look:


I wouldn't mind having a Zooid swarm look after my desk, but they might have more trouble getting around because of the clutter. On the other hand they might just solve that problem by pushing all of the junk, along with the good stuff onto the floor. 

So how do they move so fast?

By comparison, the largest robot swarm to date of 1000 Kilobots move at just 1cm/s compared to 50 cm/s for Zooids. Although Zooids are small - about 26mm in diameter - they have two motors driving the wheels. The brain is an ARM processor with a 2.4GHz radio.

For I/O we have a capacitive touch sensor and two photo-diodes.  The photo-diodes are used in a projector-based tracking system that lets the Zooid know where it is at all times. The battery life means that they can run around for about 1 hour. 



The research team that built the Zooid have coined the term swarm user interfaces, but at this stage it isn't clear that this is going to be something that we encounter in the near future. What is clear is that as robots get smaller and swarms become bigger we are going to have to rethink our idea of what a robot is. It brings a whole new meaning to "reactive UI". 

If you want to help, or just play with the ideas, the project is avaialble on GitHub. I would also think that it would make a good KickStarter project.


More Information

Zooids: Building Blocks for Swarm User Interfaces


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Last Updated ( Saturday, 29 October 2016 )