Researchers and academics from VUB & imec have won a place in the Guinness World Records. With visitors to the Nerdland Festival, they made the longest chain of robots ever, which also respond to light. VUB/imec professor Bram Vanderborght and the technical team of Ellen Roels, Gabriël Van De Velde, Hendrik Cools and Niklas Steenackers have worked on the project for the past several months. They set their record with a chain of 334 self-designed robots. With the record, the VUB BruBotics research group wants to introduce people to robots. “Our objective was mainly to introduce participants to robots in an interactive way,” says Vanderborght. “And we are proud that we succeeded.”
The initiative came from BruBotics, VUB’s Brussels Human Robotics Research Centre, which designed the robots. “The robots respond to light with the built-in sensors,” says Ellen Roels, BruBotics researcher and VUB PhD student. This is important because to achieve the record, the robots had to respond to something in their environment. “The more light, the faster the little arms and head move. They also have a heart that can change colour via adjustments to the base code.”
Visitors to the Nerdland Festival helped assemble, program and decorate the robots. “Without their help, we certainly wouldn’t have reached 334 robots and therefore wouldn’t have set the record,” says Roels.
A lot of work goes into building a robot. “It’s a multidisciplinary activity that brings together technical, social, human and medical sciences,” says Bram Vanderborght. “We wanted to show that with the world record. Together we can achieve great things and everyone can contribute based on their strengths.”
Because visitors were able to work with the robots themselves, they got a better idea about what the technology entails. “In this way, we want to allay fears about robots,” says Vanderborght. “Nerdland is an ideal festival to do that in a fun way.”
The robots had to be touching each other, but that would mean a chain almost 35 m long, so a solution was found. The chain stood on a pedestal made by the carpentry department of VUB’s infrastructure department to a design by BruBotics. VUB’s Fablab cut all the robot parts using lasers. The project is a collaboration between BruBotics, imec and VUB. And Nerdland Festival visitors, of course.
“The previous record was held by a school in Hong Kong with a chain of 255 robots,” says BruBotics innovation manager Gabriël Van De Velde. “It dates back to 2007. We built 334 of them, but we only succeeded thanks to the enthusiastic help of the Nerdland Festival visitors.”
The tower of robots will soon be on display at Technopolis, the hands-on science and technology museum in Mechelen.