What is swarm intelligence? Have you ever wondered at the perfectly synchronized flight of a flock of birds? It looks like a well-choreographed dance in which the birds veer to the right or left at unison. It almost looks like they have a leader that coordinates them and they play a “follow-the –leader” game. Before reading further take a moment and watch the following video:
How is this possible? A flock is a very good example of self-organization. There is no need for a central director to oversee the process. All that is needed is an appropriate set of simple local rules. Each bird in the flock follows this set of rules, reacting to the movement of the birds nearby it. These rules are:
1.Avoid bumping into other individuals.
2. Move in the average direction that those closest to you are heading.
3.Move toward the average position of those closest to you.
These can be more succinctly described as: Avoidance (separation),Alignment and Attraction (cohesion).
These simple local interactions between the birds in flight can generate amazing patterns of which none of the member is aware. The bird in front is not a leader-it just happens to end up there. Another one will constantly replace her during the flight. In other words, the flock is organized without an organizer.
We can find the same phenomenon at locust, bees and ant colonies. Human behavior also follows in some circumstances these rules: highway traffic and market economies are systems also determined by local interactions among decentralized components.
Craig W. Reynolds developed in 1986 a computer program that simulates the flocking behavior of birds called BOIDS.
Reynolds' boids are small isosceles triangles. The program is quite short, and the individual boids just follow just the same three simple rules mentioned above:
1) If you are about to crash into another bird, turn around.
2) If you are far away from other birds, head towards the nearest bird.
3) Otherwise, fly in the same direction as the bird next to you.
Do swarms of drones exist only in the SciFi literature or movies? Not so fast! Recent technological advancements made possible the production of the first drones swarm.Watch it in action:
In the end, watch this funny video about the swarm intelligence of a group of penguins: