Dancing Robot Swarm Tells The Story Of The Universe

Dancing Robot Swarm Tells The Story Of The Universe

Disney's Pixelbots roll around and light up in sync like large, real-world pixels.

Tiffany Nesbit
  • 4 april 2014

Three years ago, at the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, Disney Research released a prototype artistic robot swarm. Last month, Disney Research returned to the conference, showing off vast improvements on the bots, as they danced the Story of The Universe. This week, Disney released a video of the performance.

Now called Pixelbots, these tiny robots have two magnetic wheels that can be programmed to represent one pixel of light and color at a time. They are capable of making quick transitions and changes in shape without getting confused or running into each other, and will even reposition themselves if you try to mix them up.


Pixelbots can make images on tabletops or whiteboards. The software that controls them allows for quick recovery of disrupted displays, without the Pixelbots being put back in their starting place. You can sketch on an iPad and watch as the Pixelbots move into the position created in the sketch., or direct them with a gesture of your hand.


In the two-minute video, 50 Pixelbots begin as a bunch of stars that burst before becoming the sun, moon, and Earth. The bots then transform into a fish in the sea, followed by a dinosaur. The show ends with the bots formed as a waving human. The video was created excite children about Pixelbots.

Pixelbots represent a potential new kind of cartoon images and 3D animation. They could lead to flying high definition displays that form interactive images in the sky. Get a glimpse of the future by viewing The Story of The Universe, as told by Pixlebots.

h/t: IEEE Spectrum, Geek


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