The world’s first operating system for tiny robots used to form swarms has been launched today.
Dubbed OpenSwarm, the open-source OS was announced by one of its creators, Roderich Groβ, senior lecturer in the University of Sheffield’s department of automatic control and engineering, at the RE WORK Future Technology Summit in London.
Designed for the miniature robots used in swarming research, the OS is extremely small, requiring a tiny percentage of the memory in a conventional OS.
“This is a tiny operating system that fits in 12kb of memory,” said Groβ.
“We have done tests on this and the big advantage of the operating system is that from now on you can run multiple applications simultaneously.”
Likening existing swarm operation to the control of computers before conventional operating systems, where a computer would need to be restarted to run a new program, Groβ said that the OS would enable far wider sharing and use of swarm software.
This is because the OS will allow software written for one specific robot to be shared and used across different robots, in much the same way software designed for Android is shared across devices as an app.
“If you have an application you want to use on a different robot then you can,” said Groβ.
This ability to replicate software across robots may seem simple, but it could have a dramatic impact on how much swarming technology will develop in the coming years.
Swarming robots have immense potential for a number of applications, including healthcare where the technology is being used to model tumour-fighting nanoparticles, but without the ability to share software across hardware its use is likely to remain limited.
“In order for this to succeed we need tools and software to become available on a mass scale,” said Groβ.
He said that while hardware is cheap, the software is not at present, and this is a severe barrier to swarm robotics’ use. With the release of this open-source OS, however, this could change significantly.