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MUN prof inspires robots on new episode of Doctor Who

A swarm of tiny robots that'll be featured in Saturday night's episode of Doctor Who is named after a professor at Memorial University.

The Doctor deals with swarm robots called Vardies in Saturday show

Andrew Vardy, a professor at Memorial University, has inspired the name for swarm robots on an episode of Dr. Who. (Darryl Murphy/CBC)

A swarm of tiny robots that'll be featured on this weekend's episode of Doctor Who is named after a professor at Memorial University in St. John's. 

Andrew Vardy, who teaches computer science and electrical engineering, is the namesake for Vardies — a cluster of robots that The Doctor will encounter on the British sci-fi show Saturday.

"I was tickled pink. It makes sense. My area of research is swarm robots," Vardy told CBC News Friday.

The Vardies, named after a Memorial University professor, will be featured on a Saturday night episode of Doctor Who. (BBC)

According to the BBC, the season's second episode, Smile, shows The Doctor taking Bill to a city on a distant planet that's inhabited by "a band of 'cute' droids."

The episode's writer, Frank Cottrell Boyce, worked with Vardy several years ago on a short story, based on some of Vardy's ideas.

Vardy has about seven robots which he has experimented with, using them to move around small pucks. He's interested in how the robots could work sorting recyclables. 

Swarm robotics — the study of multiple robots inspired by the way insects such as bees and ants operate — is Vardy's specialty.

"Roboticists are really fascinated by this and we're trying to figure out how to make robotic technology more effective and less prone to faults than traditional approaches because an insect colony keeps going," Vardy said.

Vardy said he wasn't always a Doctor Who fan, but he certainly is now. 

"Although I'm a geek and I love all Star Trek and Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, I haven't tuned in to Doctor Who until just recently and now, of course, I'm a huge fan."

The episode airs at 10:30 NT Saturday on Space.