Teamwork by ants and robots

Teamwork by ants and robots

When scouts of the desert ant Aphaenogaster cockerelli find an item too large for a single ant, they organize a team that swiftly carries it to their nest, thus evading more aggressive competitors. This impressive ability is not seen in most ant species, and we are working with Vijay Kumar’s group at the University of Pennsylvania to understand the underlying behavioral strategies. In addition to its biological interest, this behavior offers a promising source of bioinspired algorithms for collective robotics. To measure the forces exerted by each ant, we have devised artificial loads ringed with sensors and induced teams of ants to retrieve them. We are using the resulting data to model how the ants achieve coordinated transport without central control, with minimum communication among team members, and in the face of obstacle-laden terrain and unpredictable load characteristics.

Skills

Posted on

January 9, 2015