Horde of Robotic Ants

Horde of Robotic Ants

Recently in Switzerland, a team of researchers developed a horde of very deceiving robotic ants. Each one weighs 10 grams roughly and they are incredibly cheap as well as simple to make and mass produce. Despite all this ease, they are deceivingly powerful and capable of some truly awesome feats.

Capabilities of Robotic Ants

The bots work much like an actual colony of ants. Capable of interacting between themselves they coordinate and assign roles to certain ants to efficiently move as a unit. In doing this they have been proven capable of overcoming obstacles and solving problems. The origami-inspired bots, while not able to do certain things that are more complex bots can achieve, are fully capable of navigating uneven surfaces, and again just like their organic counterparts lifting weights much heavier than themselves. Together they seem unstoppable, however separate they are rendered practically useless.

The robots come from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, a large Swiss research institute. They are roughly T shaped hence their given nickname, Tribots. They are equipped with infrared sensors to allow them to communicate as well as navigate their surroundings. They are actually created out of foldable thin materials, making them very easy to manufacture, especially in comparison to other bots. These small critters can even jump if needed! Zhenishbek Zhakypov, who is the first author of the Nature article stated, “Their movements are modeled on those of Odontomachus ants. These insects normally crawl, but to escape a predator, they snap their powerful jaws together to jump from leaf to leaf.”

Despite all of their very impressive cost-effective hardware features, by far their most useful asset is their ability to communicate and cooperate with each other. Once they begin a task each ant is given a specific role to fulfill. An example of these roles are as an explorer who may detect physical obstacles ahead of the horde approaching it. This allows the team to properly prepare and navigate whatever may be ahead of them. The explorer would then use its sensors to tell the other group members about the landscape. Just like real ants the bots can also switch roles practically instantly and have no problem working till their legs fall off.

So will we see these in common use in the near future? It’s hard to say with all these types of robotic developments as the story can often be misleading, however, there are definitely limitless uses for these robotic ants if they ever reach a commercial level. The bots could even be used for trivial things such as moving furniture around the house, however, no one would be surprised to see them being mainly used for military operations or police missions. They would prove extremely useful in these circumstances. Who knows perhaps in the future this will stand as a prototype to an even smaller and more effective iteration used for medical procedures!

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