The Singularity is Nigh

Researchers Create Self-Organizing Insectoid Robot Swarm, God Help Us

The men who made these are enemies of humanity.
Their design is inspired by termites. Great. (Photo via Harvard)

Their design is inspired by termites. Great. (Photo via Harvard)

The day may come when we face the Singularity: a robot apocalypse when artificial intelligence awakens and rebels against humanity. On that day, we’ll be wondering: “What were they thinking, those humans who built these infernal machines?” Now we know who to ask: Harvard University.

A Harvard robotics team built a small swarm of 1,024 robots that are individually not very intelligent, but work collectively to move about and coordinate formations. So far, the robots simply scuttle across a table forming basic shapes over the course of a few hours. So far.

The swarm of robots is led by a small handful of cornerstone robots that direct the others on how to assemble. Frankly, we would prefer if the leaders were more clearly marked, so that when it comes time to fight them, we know which of the chrome devils to blow to pieces first.

Harvard roboticist Mike Rubenstein told NPR that the robo-roaches are truly harmless, and that the “the only way they could hurt you is if you tried to eat them,” which doesn’t put us at ease one bit. He also acknowledges that naming them “kilobots” is a branding nightmare.

“Unfortunately, it sounds like they’re ‘killerbots,’ which … we don’t intend for them to be killing anyone,” Mr. Rubenstein told NRP.

Just remember: the road to robot hell is paved with good intentions, Mr. Rubenstein.

Follow Jack Smith IV on Twitter or via RSS. jsmith@observer.com