According to the Jewish faith, the world was created 5772 years ago tonight (in ancient times days may have been longer than 24 hours). Even if you are not Jewish, this is an auspicious occasion. It is a time to reflect and renew one self to improve the world around us.
The Sages tell us that our prayers are bundled together to soar to the Heavens in merit of the community. This adage reminds us that the individual is weak on his own and needs one another to overcome obstacles. When we look around we see this pattern in nature – schools of fish, herds of cows, and flocks of birds. Robots are not any different.
Bird Robots typically end up crashing into trees or electrical polls when left to their own devices, see example. In Switzerland, scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale’s Laboratory of Intelligence Systems have created fly machines that swarm using a 3D algorithm, mimicking migrating birds (thus avoiding crash and burns). The immediate purpose of these fly-bots is imagining and mapping, long-term these wing-bots could provide real-time surveillance. Amazingly, the swarming algorithm was originally developed in 1986 by Craig Reynolds. Today, the Lab has spun-out into a new robot hardware company, called senseFly.
Its strange how we can learn from the innovations around us, in the words of the LIS scientist Sabine Hauert, “flocking requires three things. You need to move with the same speed and direction as your neighbors, you need to avoid hitting them and you need to stay close.” Too often we find it easier to turn on our devices of escapism, forgetting that being human requires the same idea as robot flocking – stay close, avoid conflict, and be conscientious neighbors.
May we all be blessed with a Good, Healthy, Sweet New Year – Shana Tova U’metuka!