Advances in modern robotics have helped develop robots that are based on the pattern of how termites behave in a colony. Developers believe that the new technology will help researchers work in areas that would otherwise be considered dangerous for humans. With the help of these robots observing environments such as underwater explorations or even space travel, where sending humans is quite dangerous, will become much easier.
There are quite a few human inventions that have been developed keeping in mind how animals behaved in their natural habitat. The plane is argued to have been modeled after how a bird soared through the sky. Sonar technology was introduced after the concept of mimicking bats using echoes to find their way was understood. Scientists are now working on incorporating termite behavior into robots that will function just as the termites do. Termites are known for creating structures that are multiple times larger than their own sizes. They share this trait with another small yet powerful insect, the ant. Both the termites and the ants are known for building large infrastructures and constructing mounds that span a wide area.
While an ant colony is comprised of several classes and also requires a queen, termites have the ability to work on their own without any interaction with other termites. Termites follow the process of stigmergy. They combine intuition with collaboration and simply base their constructions on their knowledge of how a structure is supposed to look like. They can easily adapt to certain changes and can quickly alter their roles to match what the other termites are doing. The reason why the robot’s behavior is based off of the termites ability to work independently is that it will allow the robots to work in secluded and dangerous areas all by themselves. This further opens up the possibility of sending these robots in space where they would be able to work even if human supervision would not be available 24/7.
The robots were developed and introduced by scientists at Harvard University who have given them the name TERMES. They might be developed to mimic the behavior of termites but are not themselves as small. The robots function by certain mathematical rules that have been entered into them. Each robot is given sensors that allow them to detect and identify when a robot is nearby. They also react to external stimuli based on the rules in their programming such as when to carry out a task or when to stop. The robots will be able to work without needing to interact or communicate with the other robots but would also have the ability to adapt to any changes.
Scientists working on the project have expressed their intention of possibly using these robots on a wider scale. According to them one of the biggest advantage of using these robots is the ability to use as many as the task requires. If a task requires that multiple robots be used than it is quite possible as their programming remains the same regardless of the number of robots working at the same time. The complete potential of basing robots on termite behavior has yet to be explored yet for many the results so far are quite promising.
By Hammad Ali