Termite-inspired robots developed to build autonomously

By Kyle Johnson,

Engineers and scientists at Harvard University have been working on autonomous robots, inspired by the behavior of termites.

Termites build impressive mounds together, though each one works independently reacting only to their immediate surroundings, reports CNN. "They do all of their coordination indirectly, by changing their shared environment," notes Justin Werfel, with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at the university.

The hope is that the decentralized, independently working robots could be utilized to work in environments that aren't safe for normal workers, such as underwater or in space.

According to CNET, since the robots work independently, they are designed to react to changes on their immediate surroundings, regardless of what another robot is doing. The idea would be that the robots would continue their project unimpeded if others begin to break down.

Kirsten Peterson, co-author, said that termites work like that, "if half the colony gets eaten by an aardvark, the rest can carry on."

CNN notes the current robots are less than five inches in height and are about four by seven inches, but they are able to carry urethane foam blocks that are 8.5 by 8.5 by 2 inches in size, to demonstrate how they work. They also aren't very quick yet.

The findings on the robots have been published in the journal Science.



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