The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has given a grant to a group of researchers hoping to use brain activity and eye movements of gamers to inform the programming of robot swarms for military use.
The basic idea is to gather data from 25 students playing a game similar to StarCraft, Stellaris and Company of Heroes. Encephalograms will capture brain activity while high-speed cameras track eye movements. Researchers will also study the decision-making processes gamers use. The data will then be used to develop algorithms for military robots.
The object is to create robot swarms of 250 or so. Each robot would be autonomous, and the swarm would be able to work in complex situations. Changes in visibility resulting from smoke would not phase these machines.
The University of Buffalo is the recipient of the $316,000 grant. Researchers in their engineering and artificial intelligence programs have developed a video game they believe will capture the decision-making processes of human beings.
That information will allow the researchers to develop programs for military robots on the ground and in the air.
The next step will be to try out the robot swarms in complex environments.
Swarm robots in factories
Swarm robot research has included industrial uses, but it is more likely that robot swarms will work in warehousing or on docks. The research can also be helpful in fine-tuning autonomous vehicles.
Currently, robots generally must be kept apart for safety. Collaborative robots, sometimes called cobots, are being developed for settings in which robots and human workers can work together. Swarm robots are intended to be used in groups. Cooperative robots of this kind which can communicate with one another would have much more flexibility than an industrial robot in a cage.
In addition to military applications, robot swarms could accomplish search and rescue operations, isolate chemical spills, or even build structures.
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