Harvard shows off the TERMES system, a "collective systems of robots" which "can build complex, 3-D structures without requiring a central command structure or prescribed roles". The system was inspired by "termites resilience and collective intelligence."
The TERMES robots can build towers, castles, and pyramids out of foam bricks, erecting staircases that let them reach the higher levels and adding bricks wherever they are needed. In the future, researchers say, similar robots could lay sandbags in advance of a flood or even perform simple construction tasks on Mars.
The key inspiration we took from termites is the idea that you can do something really complicated as a group, without a supervisor, and, secondly, that you can do it without everybody discussing explicitly whats going on, but just by modifying the environment, said principal investigator Radhika Nagpal, the Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at SEAS. She is also a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute, where she co-leads the bio-inspired robotics platform.
Most human construction projects are performed by trained workers who operate in a hierarchical organization, said lead author Justin Werfel, a staff scientist in bio-inspired robotics at the Wyss Institute and a former SEAS postdoctoral fellow.
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