AI News, TERMES Project Concludes, Insect Robots Declare Victory

TERMES Project Concludes, Insect Robots Declare Victory

Modeled after some of nature's most prolific and talented builders (at least, prolific and talented relative to their size), the TERMES robots are very simple, but are capable of working together to build relatively complex structures over time, using a simple set of rules that don't require any centralized command or control.

When we last checked in with TERMES, they'd been working on 'an algorithmic approach to constructing desired structures using decentralized rules,' which means being able to tell a computer what sort of structure you want, and having the computer figure out what sets of simple rules the robots all need to obey to make it happen.

The video above shows that in practice, which is cool to actually see, although we're kind of hoping that the project will continue in some form, at least long enough to see these little robots build a replica of the pyramids or something.

Harvard researchers look to termites as inspiration for autonomous building robots

Termites may be among the most repellent and invasive insects on the planet, but they've also provided the inspiration for a set of swarm-based construction robots designed by a group of Harvard researchers.

The TERMES robot project is based on the behavior of actual termites: while the insects may be known for infesting homes, they also are skilled builders, making impressive, elaborate, and huge structures many times their size with little to no centralized guidance.

The robots can manipulate and build up structures using specific types of blocks, can maneuver around the structures it builds, and multiple robots can take part and build up a user-defined structure.

These adorable robots could someday put construction workers out of a job

The insects practice a form of self-organization called stigmergy, or the use of markers in the environment left by one organism to determine the action taken by the next one.

Ants, for example, leave a track of pheromones—smelly chemicals—when en route to the nest from a food source.

Because those pheromones attract their nest-mates, termites are more likely to drop mud on a spot that’s already been visited.

In this way the bugs can achieve a unified goal without individually knowing what they’re building.

The TERMES built the structures by observing and reacting to the other robots around them—no further instruction from humans required.

But because their directives are so simple—put down a brick that fits in the building plan, where no one else has laid one down–they require little processing power.

TERMES Project: 2 robot construction

Early Implementation: 8 Block Staircase on ground sped up.

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