Kilobot: A low cost robot with scalable operations designed for collective behaviors

Michael Rubenstein, Christian Ahler, Nick Hoff, Adrian Cabrera, Radhika Nagpal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


In current robotics research there is a vast body of work on algorithms and control methods for groups of decentralized cooperating robots, called a swarm or collective. These algorithms are generally meant to control collectives of hundreds or even thousands of robots; however, for reasons of cost, time, or complexity, they are generally validated in simulation only, or on a group of a few tens of robots. To address this issue, this paper presents Kilobot, an open-source, low cost robot designed to make testing collective algorithms on hundreds or thousands of robots accessible to robotics researchers. To enable the possibility of large Kilobot collectives where the number of robots is an order of magnitude larger than the largest that exist today, each robot is made with only $14 worth of parts and takes 5 min to assemble. Furthermore, the robot design allows a single user to easily operate a large Kilobot collective, such as programming, powering on, and charging all robots, which would be difficult or impossible to do with many existing robotic systems. We demonstrate the capabilities of the Kilobot as a collective robot, by using a small robot test collective to implement four popular swarm behaviors: foraging, formation control, phototaxis, and synchronization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)966-975
Number of pages10
JournalRobotics and Autonomous Systems
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • General Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Modular robot
  • Multi-robot system
  • Robot collectives


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