Termites can create mounds that are hundreds of times their own size, working independently without communication or a leader. Inspired by the creatures, scientists have created robots that use just a few simple rules and environmental cues to build castle-like structures and pyramids.
The robots all work independently. Each travels along a grid and can move, climb a step and lift and put down bricks. And they use sensors to detect other robots and existing bricks, and react to these stimuli according to a simple set of rules, such as when to lay a brick or climb a step higher. The template for each three-dimensional structure is translated into a specific set of ‘traffic rules’ and combined with fixed laws of robot behaviour, says co-author Justin Werfel, a computer scientist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His team’s results appear today in Science1.
The idea of combining traffic rules and robot behaviour is “brilliant from an engineering perspective”, says Alcherio Martinoli, a roboticist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. “It just decouples a complex reverse-engineering problem into two pieces of information which have to work together,” says Martinoli, who was not involved in the work.
Robots are useful in places that for humans would be “dirty, dangerous and dull”, says Werfel. This means that such swarms could be useful for the first construction project on Mars, or in the more immediate future, for building levees to protect against flooding. Independently acting robots make for a robust system, he adds. “If some got swept away by the flood, the others wouldn’t have to change what they’re doing.”
Another advantage is scalability, he says. “If you wanted to take the system and apply it to a much bigger flood, all you have to do is add more. Nothing in their programming depends on how many there are.”
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7:30pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.
Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!
Maker Business — How 3M is able to ramp up production of N95 masks
Wearables — Flip UV on its head
Electronics — To Y5V or not to Y5V?
Biohacking — Vitamin-C + Gelatin for Accelerated Recovery
Python for Microcontrollers — Virtually Maker Faire, HackSpace Magazine, and more! #Python #Adafruit #CircuitPython @circuitpython @micropython @ThePSF
Adafruit IoT Monthly — Cosmo Clock, Low Powered Widlife Camera, and more!
Microsoft MakeCode — Arcade Mini Game in a Text Adventure
No comments yet.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.