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Swarming Robots Rescue Coral Reefs
9/18/2012

Coralbots will be trained to distinguish coral fragments from other objects, such as sponges and other sea creatures, as well as rocks and trash.   (Source: Murray Roberts/Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh)
Coralbots will be trained to distinguish coral fragments from other objects, such as sponges and other sea creatures, as well as rocks and trash.
(Source: Murray Roberts/Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh)

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Swarming Definition
Ann R. Thryft   9/25/2012 12:48:02 PM
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You're welcome, Jack. From what I recall, autonomy is one of the main points in swarming robots. You might want to check out some of the related posts at the end of this story for more info.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Swarming Definition
Jack Rupert, PE   9/24/2012 3:10:32 PM
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Interesting site, Ann.  Thanks for posting.  Has it been your experience, then, in researching these various articles on swarming that the individual vehicles / robots are fully autonomous?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Swarming Definition
Ann R. Thryft   9/24/2012 1:54:45 PM
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Jack, swarming behavior is biological and implies certain types of communication among the swarming elements. You can find more info about it here: http://www.swarms.org/

Jack Rupert, PE
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Swarming Definition
Jack Rupert, PE   9/24/2012 12:28:39 PM
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Ann - Have you seen a formal definition yet of "swarming"?  There seems to be a number of companies working on this, but where is the line currently being drawin betweens "swarms" and coordinated operation?  Is it the fact that the individual members of a swarm have no independant control and the mission is simply given to the "whole" with some type of coordinated artificial intelligence giving commands to the individual?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: keep us updated
Rob Spiegel   9/20/2012 1:05:29 PM
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Yes it is about time we help rather than just destroy, Cadman-LT. I remember seeing the plane that was deliberately crashed for the movie Catch 22 off the shore in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It wasn't intended to become a haven for small fish, but it did.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: You've defined Pixar's next movie
Ann R. Thryft   9/20/2012 12:08:31 PM
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TJ, just found your WALL-E Finds Nemo comment--thanks for the chuckles. I can visualize it all too well. Wonder if these little bots look anything like WALL-E?

Cadman-LT
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Re: keep us updated
Cadman-LT   9/19/2012 5:15:20 PM
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Rob, as far as I know they do that with ships all the time. As far as the robots go, I think it's great. About time we help rather than just destroy.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: keep us updated
Ann R. Thryft   9/19/2012 12:52:50 PM
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Chuck and others, the robots would piece together/transplant damaged bits of healthy and living, not dead, coral and re-cement them to the larger structure to help the entire structure regrow. Here's a description from a different project attempting to do something similar via human hands in shallow-, not deep-water, coral reefs: http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/coral-transplant/

The idea is to do this before a certain threshold is passed and massive, irreversible damage occurs. In Scottish case, it's probably better described as maintenance than repair.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: keep us updated
Rob Spiegel   9/19/2012 11:45:49 AM
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What an interesting idea, Akwaman. I take it that we've learned this through accidents. Have there been cases where decommissioned ships were strategically placed to provide a home for sea life?

akwaman
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Re: keep us updated
akwaman   9/19/2012 8:58:30 AM
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This is a cool concept and some neat technology, but it does not restore the animals that actually build the reefs other than to give them substrate and structure.  This process will not really restore a coral reef, except to create man-made structure to support sea life, and there is already ways to do this cheaper. Yes, they (coral) need substrate to attach to and sea life needs reefs for protection, but if you want some lifeless structure to act as a nursery (much needed in the oceans), then I suggest sinking more de-commissioned ships to give some structure for sea life, certainly a lot cheaper, and proven to attract sea life and create new, large coral reefs relatively fast, and create eco-tourist traffic that boosts local economies. Sunken ships are better, because trawlers will stay away from a sunken ship, allowing the sea life to flourish (only to save their precious equipment).  They certainly don't care about coral reefs, and as these robots build up the lifeless reefs, the bottom draggers will come along and continue to destroy them.  Additional concern: I would be curious to know how sensitive to any existing coral that are attached to the materials and structure they are creating. 

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