Firefly Robots

Some fireflies exhibit a remarkable behavior where their flashes can synchronize with one another. I am interested in seeing if I can reproduce this behavior in small tabletop robots. These robots may use lights and light sensors to reproduce the firefly behavior directly. Otherwise, the robots may use other communication mechanisms like sound or motion to initiate the synchronization behavior.

Firefly synchronize with man-made lights

Communication between the robotic actors is key to the synchronization. The actors should be able to create their event, whether a flash or a sound or a movement. Other actors can perceive that event and react. Thereby creating a communication channel from the first actor to the second, regardless of medium, will reproduce the desired effect.

In the fireflies, the communication spurs a synchronization between the flies. I would like to expand the purpose of the communication beyond simple synchronization to achieve “conversations” between the robots.

I have previously explored this idea in one of my iDesign Studio collaborations at Mount Holyoke College. Students built lighted costumes instrumented with light sensing “eyes.” The costumes interacted with one another and the environment to put on a unique performance.


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