Termite drones: Harvard unveils swarm construction robots – This is REAL Genius


Termites are fascinating creatures. They build
complex, structurally sound hills metres high, despite having no real idea on an individual
level what the thing will look like, and not being able to follow complex orders. they operate by a system known as Stigmergy
– or environmental command. Essentially, the drone termite knows to pick up a clod of soil
and transport it to the construction site. If the first spot at the site is already filled,
they will move on to the next construction zone using a system of chemical trails left
by termites ahead to navigate. Eventually, a coherent structure will emerge. And that’s the principle being used by a team
from Harvard University’s Wyss (Veese) Institute for biologically inspired engineering. They’ve
designed a squad of small drone bricklaying robots, which operate based on similar principles
to build coherent structures with very little outside input or information. A design is
input into the controlling programme, but no more than that is specified. The drones
then set to, building the structure themselves with no outside control. The droids are simple,
easy to build and tough, allowing them to keep on working. They have just four sensors,
infrared, ultrasound, an accelerometer to help them climb and pressure sensitive push
buttons, which allow them to sense the location of bricks locate other droids, and navigate
their structures. The major advantage of systems like this is
that the drones can simply be left to run, making them extremely useful in situations
where human intervention is difficult, dangerous or overly menial – such as building structures
in space, or in disaster zones. Although I have to say, they might look amazing, but
there is something a little sinister about an army of robots being left to build stuff
on their own.

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