In the future, the most efficient robots will work together as hives.
This is Radhika Nagpal who co-founded Root Robotics. She is also a Harvard University professor of computer science. Nagpal spoke at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) recently about the ways engineers are drawing from nature to create the next generation of robots.
Nagpal studies creatures with collective intelligence. This is a group of knowledge that it uses to solve problems. An example of this is the army ants. Millions of them work together without a leader to build nests or other tasks. To allow their fellow ants to cross gaps and rough terrain, the insects can even build ladders and bridges from their own bodies. Collective intelligence is also displayed by other organisms, such as cells and flocks of birds or schools of fish. They move in sync together.
” As engineers, Nagpal says that the obvious question is: Can we create our own? “
As Nagpal has shown, the answer is yes. Root Robotics is her team. They create robot collectives using complex algorithms that mimic the functions of swarms found in nature. The Kilobot system is the first hive to have more than one ,000 collaboration robot. These tiny robots are capable of carrying out tasks such as moving items without human intervention.
The company also has a robot swarm modeled after termites, which can create three-dimensional structures. There is also an army ant-inspired robot swarm that can be assembled into small structures such as ramps and bridges. The smaller bots will be cheaper, easier to customize to the user’s requirements, and more able to reach places that larger bots can’t.
“Any future application that you can imagine for robotics will require many robots to work together,” Nagpal says. This could include robots that are used in construction, agriculture, monitoring the environment, and search-and-rescue missions. Self-driving cars can also be considered robot collectives as millions of them can navigate the roads together.
If your company develops robots or artificial intelligence, it may be in your best interests to look to the natural world for inspiration.
” There are many ways that robots can help us in the future, says Nagpal. “Robotics can be used to explore all the complex and dynamic collective intelligence we don’t yet understand. “
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