Harvard has been working hard on a robotic collective (consciousness?) that is capable of collaborating and acting independent of human intervention. It's a coalition of more than a thousand robots focused on completing tasks – harmless ones like making a star formation or perhaps more insidious ones like overthrowing all of society.
We know who to try for treason first when the robots finally overthrow us all.
The research is led by Radhika Nagpal of Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and is part of an ongoing effort to investigate how machines can model biological processes using AI algorithms.
Kilobots or Kill-o-bots?
Your future overlords are called Kilobots, a group of 1024 (that's 2 to the power of 10, for anyone counting) of small, mobile machines that communicate with each other using infrared laser beams. For the moment, the researchers can command the robots to perform simple tasks like forming the letter “k” and the robots will arrange themselves into the given pattern.
The key is in algorithms, which automate the little logistical details of the order, and does not require detailed manual intervention from the master controller. And the key inspiration for the algorithm itself is in nature, from something like how a flock of birds might coordinate themselves in flight. "The beauty of biological systems is that they are elegantly simple -- and yet, in large numbers, accomplish the seemingly impossible," said Nagpal. Insert your favourite villainous cackle here.
The technology could have numerous practical applications, automating devices and software without the need for constant human supervision. For now, the algorithm needed to start a robot uprising is open source and available for free on Harvard's website. The Kilobots themselves are available at K-Team at wonderfully vague “low-cost”, but really what price is too high to pay for the assured destruction of all humanity?