Learning how robots talk to each other can translate to helping the Air Force gather data through its manned and unmanned aircraft. So engineers at a research lab in Dayton, Ohio, are teaching teams of robots to communicate by creating virtual robot environments. The robots are programmed to communicate using radio waves --just like a computer wireless network at home.
Then the engineers apply their findings to actual robots, which work together as a team to achieve goals. Each navigates via a sensor, which collects information from surroundings. This information can be converted into electrical signals so a computer or person can respond to it. The goal is to install these sensors in airplanes to capture information about the environment below. "Yes, we are playing with toys all day -- but it's more than that," says electrical engineer Mark Oliver. "We're also learning how to solve difficult problems."