termite robotes

Termite-Inspired Robots Can Build Unsupervised

Greetings to all the science buddies. We are always fascinated by the robots and the science behind robotics. Our Hollywood films are too intrigued by the robotic engineering and that is one of the reason they incorporated all they incorporates sci-fi robots and their amazing abilities. The films we can see most of the robots or arterial intelligence are- iRobot, Terminator series, Transformer series, Wall-E etc. and the list goes on. One of the latest works on artificial intelligence and robotics is today’s project. You can take lots of ideal or references to make similar stuffing and become part of the noble cause.

A team of engineers and computer scientists at ‘School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)’ and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have produced an autonomous robotic construction crew. The most appealing character of the crew is that it requires no supervision. It does not require an eye in the sky, no communication to guide, just simple robots. They cooperated to each other and act intelligently themselves modifying the environment. The team got its inspiration from Termites so they call it the Termite Crew. The Harvard Termite System corroborates that collective system of their robots can build complex, 3-D structures without the want of any central command or prescribed roles. The result their four year hard work was presented at AAAS 2014 Annual Meeting.

Now one obvious query you all must have what can they build so they can make towers, castles, pyramids out of foam bricks and autonomously builds the staircase to reach the higher levels for adding bricks and materials for construction when they need. In the near future such robots could lay sandbags in advance of the flood, etc. and perform construction tasks on Mars and moon etc.

On an Interview with the core faculty member  while discussing the amazing  robotic crew She says “The key inspiration we took from termites is the idea that you can do something really complicated as a group, without a supervisor, and secondly that you can do it without everybody discussing explicitly what’s going on, but just by modifying the environment”  The lead author also  said that most human construction projects today are performed by the trained workers  in hierarchical organization . We all are pretty much aware that when a construction project is started we do have a blue print and plan. the foreman then directs his crew members and supervise them .while in the termites world the queen does not instruct  each individual  member but everyone is aware of  what other the termite is doing and the current overall state of the job they are accomplishing.

termites botes

The curious geeks want to know by now, what is that concept on which this system depends? The answer is ‘Stigmergy’ which is a kind of implicit communication. The bots observe each other’s changes to the environment and acts accordingly. Each individual robot executes its building process in parallel with the others without being aware who else is working in the same real time. This means that the same set of instruction can be executed by ten robots or ten thousand. This system is a perfect epitome of concept for scalable, distributed artificial intelligence. The bots are employed with simple sensors and three actuators.

This system is a plus in contrast to the previous concept where a central controller is needed or an eye in the sky. It guides the whole crew and keeps an eye on them all the time. The system works efficiently if the crew of the robots is small but with the increase in no say- 500, becomes complex and difficult to manage. On the other hand if there occur some problem with the central control, leads to failure of the whole crew system.

Following are some points to decipher about the termite Crew:-

What can a TERMITES robot do?

  • Move forward, backward, and turn in its own place.
  • Climb up or down a step the height of one brick.
  • Pick up a brick, carry it, and deposit it directly in front of itself.
  •  Detect other bricks and robots in immediate vicinity.
  •  Keep track of its own location with respect to a “seed” or brick.

What instructions do the TERMITES robots follow?

  • Obey predetermined traffic protocols.
  •  Circle the growing structure to find the first, “seed” brick (for the orientation).
  •  Climb onto the structure.
  • Obtain a brick.
  •  Attach the brick at any vacant point that satisfies local geometric requirements.
  • Climb off the structure.
  • Repeat.

We, Mech- Ant – Group is also inspired by the working of ants all together to accomplish the task too. We hope this article would be helpful to you. In case you have any query regarding the article or want to know some technicalities, please don’t hesitate to ask. We would love to reply you to the most possible way we can. Stay tuned with us for other Project Ideas and Engineering Projects.

Below is an official video showing the construction by these Termites Robots:-

I am a "Mechanical Engineer" and a part time Blogger. I love to write technical stuff specifically. I have an experience in automobile and design field. Now I want to share my Engineering knowledge with you.


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