BUFFALO, N.Y. — Autonomous robots excel in factories and other manmade spaces, but they struggle with the randomness of nature.
To help these machines overcome uneven terrain and other obstacles, University at Buffalo researchers have turned to beavers, termites and other animals that build structures in response to simple environmental cues, as opposed to following predetermined plans.
“When a beaver builds a dam, it’s not following a blueprint. Instead, it’s reacting to moving water. It’s trying to stop the water from flowing,” says Nils Napp, PhD, assistant professor of computer science and engineering in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We’re developing a system for autonomous robots to behave similarly. The robot continuously monitors and modifies its terrain to make it more mobile.”
The work is described in a study to be presented this week at the Robots: Science and Systems conference. The work could have implications in search-and-rescue operations, planetary exploration for Mars rover-style vehicles and other areas.
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