Leaderless Robots Inspired by Termites Build Structures Using Foam Bricks

Posted on February 13, 2014

TERMES robots

Harvard computer scientists and engineers have developed a line of leaderless robots that can build structures using foam bricks. The robots were inspired by termites. The TERMES robots cooperate to build foam structures and towers with any need for central command. The autonomous construction crew build staircases as they work so they can climb higher and add to the structure they are building.

The researchers were inspired by a termite concept called stigmergy. The scientists say stigmergy is a "kind of implicit communication." The termites "observe each others' changes to the environment and act accordingly."

Radhika Nagpal, Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at Harvard SEAS, and principal investigator of TERMES, says in a statement, "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 what's going on, but just by modifying the environment."

Take a look:

The research was published here in the journal Science.

Photos: Eliza Grinnell, SEAS Communications

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