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These robots communicate like ants to perform complex tasks

Ant robots: yes, the new generation of robots that has been optimized for our new era. But what are these devices? The photograph with which we started this post may not have much to tell you. In fact, if we tell you that they are small ant robots you are sure to be surprised.

Are they really? Yes, this kind of robot, apparently has no use. So much so that if you choose only one of the robots you will see that its performance is quite low and that the tasks you must perform do not have a high impact. However, its success as optimized machines relies on its talent to work cooperatively.

The ant robots in this image were developed by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. It is one of the most advanced inventions that exist, while its mission is to establish connections that allow them to act together and based on a communication network.

Union is strength

The fundamental pillar that sustains the activity of these robots is found in the algorithm that allows the motto “union is strength” to be completely solid. This algorithm also allows them to perceive objects and obstacles, so that they can move them and clean the area easily: in the same way that ants would.

It should be noted at the time that this technology represents a group of mechanized ants robots. Most of their tasks focus on coordination and performing complex tasks. The idea is that in the long term this technology can be used to perform explorations, saving the lives that are under the rubble of an earthquake.

The ants robot project is still in a very early phase. But it is entirely inspired by the behavior of ants, so its essence is entirely mechanical. The truth is that for developers, this model of cooperation between robots has demonstrated the effectiveness with which animals behave.

A design thought of origami figures

The EPFL development team is very proud to have been inspired by the behavior and performance of ants to establish their cooperative algorithm. At the moment ants robots are a type of simple prototype that is categorized as “tribots”. Its design, in part has been thought of origami figures.

Part of the coordination with which they operate depends on the infrared sensors, as well as those of proximity, with which their anatomy has developed. The sensors are fundamental so that the logic of their behavior is maintained, as well as the level of communication that derives from their algorithm.

In fact, the algorithm has been designed for each of the ant robots to establish different behaviors. That is, through communication, hierarchies and roles are generated for each member of the group. This assignment of roles depends largely on the situation in which these technologies are involved.

Splitting their roles and cooperation

There is talk, for example, of robots that assume the work of exploration, who inform the leading robots. The working robots meanwhile have the main mission of obeying the solutions proposed by the leading robots. In this way, and through other roles, we work in relation to the obstacles that prevent ant robots from continuing to work in the sector.

Beyond the division of roles, it must be understood that each tribot can choose to change roles depending on the situation. At some point it may happen that a worker-category ant robot declares itself as a leader, to assume the leadership of a section in which they are operating.

In a sense, the algorithm and optimization with which these robots operate is similar to that of ants. However, their experience and working model goes a little beyond all the talent that real ants can represent. The person in charge of the development of this project is Jaime Paik, who is the director of the EPFL robotics laboratory.

A promising future

The work managed by the EPFL is really very important for the field of robotics. In an era where human tasks are sought to be flexible through robots, this technological optimization demonstrates the way in which technologies can be synchronized to operate in an orderly manner.

The idea that these technologies can be used in rescue work is very attractive and surely, there will be many organizations that want this project to continue intensifying their work. Obviously, in the long term it would not be ants of such small robots, but much more robust equipment to properly perform their rescue tasks.

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