1953 Machina Speculatrix: The First Swarm Drone?

A talk I was watching recently suggested researchers finally in 2019 had cracked how robots could efficiently act like a swarm. Their solution? Movement based entirely on a light sensor.

That sounded familiar to me so I went back to one of my old presentations on IoT/AI security and found a slide showing the same discovery claim from 1953. Way back then people used fancier terms than just swarm.

W. Grey Walter built jelly-fish-like robots that were reactive to their surroundings: light sensor, touch sensor, propulsion motor, steering motor, and a two vacuum tube analog computer. He called their exploration behavior Machina Speculatrix and the individual robots were named Elmer or Elsie (ELectro MEchanical Robots, Light Sensitive)

The rules for swarm robots back then were as simple as they will be today, as one should expect from swarms:

If light moderate (safe)
Then move toward
If light bright (unsafe)
Then move away
If battery low (hungry)
Then return for charge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.