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Robot choreography and coupled oscillators

Nao robots are a programmable standard model of small scale humanoid robot by French firm Aldebaran Robotics, and they are used for, among other things, the RoboCup soccer tournament to provide a standard platform to compare programming skills. Anyone paying attention to robot/dancing-related news on the internet will be aware that Nao robots have been trained to do synchronised dance routines, although such routines are usually pre-programmed.

Patrick Bechon and Jean-Jacques Slotine, from MIT, have developed a means to link a group of robots, using coupled oscillators, so that a dance routine can be followed and synchronised – so a robot which gets disturbed during the piece can rejoin at the right point, as demonstrated beautifully in the video below. The robots use Network Time Protocol to synchronise their clocks, and while other co-operative programs have been seen before (not least, in the RoboCup where the team works together), this new work involves strong synchronisation, which means even if there’s a delay in loading the programme or transmitting between robots, or if a new robot is added during the choreography, they are still all in time with each other. Plus, they’re pretty cute.

Source: Robot Choreography on MetaSD

Paper: Synchronization and quorum sensing in a swarm of humanoid robots