A new breed of cooperative robots has won an artificial intelligence award: the Swarmanoid. (Although the robots are many, they are referred to as a singular collective.) Reminiscent of the "fast, cheap, and out of control" robots envisioned by Rodney Brooks in his pioneering paper and the documentary of the same name, these robots work together and organize themselves in a network in order to achieve tasks -- in the video below, they go on a mission to retrieve a book. So what is the Swarmanoid? Here's what the researchers have to say:

Swarmanoid is a heterogeneous robot swarm in which different groups of robots have different capabilities: some robots are specialized in manipulating objects and climbing, some in moving on the ground and transporting objects, and some in flying and observing the environment from above. This video presents the Swarmanoid project, a 4 year research project coordinated by Marco Dorigo and funded by the Commission of the European Union.

This video won the Best Video Award at the AAAI-11 AI Video Competition.

Below is a video demonstration that's actually really exciting. Working together, the bots can perform interesting real-world tasks -- including flying. I, for one, welcome our Swarmanoid overlord(s).

Read a bit more at PhysOrg about Swarmanoid. Note that Rodney Brooks was not involved in this project, though I think he'd approve (I'm still waiting for the micro-robots he promised, the swarm that would live in the corner of my TV screen and clean the glass when the set was turned off...).