SRI designed an early example of swarm robots. Centibots were one of the first and largest teams of coordinated, autonomous mobile robots that could explore, map, and survey unknown environments — another SRI milestone in robotics.
With funding from DARPA, SRI led development of the Centibots technology to advance the state of the art in distributed robotics. In 2004, the project team successfully demonstrated the coordinated deployment of 100 robots for missions such as urban surveillance.
In a typical scenario, a first team of mapping robots would survey an area while building and sharing a distributed map. They would be followed by a second wave of tracking robots that configured themselves to efficiently search for an object of interest within that area, sensing and tracking intruders, and sharing information among themselves and with a command center.
The robots were autonomous and independent of any network infrastructure, carrying and deploying their own communication network. Robots could communicate with each other to coordinate their effort. If one robot failed, another took over its task.