Termite – Inspired Robots Capable of Doing Construction Work

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Human construction projects generally go on with people in supervisory roles to see how things should be put together and relaying them to the builders. Today?s technological advancement is beginning to imply the importance of robots in building structures. As animals and insects have their own unique ways of building and working, researchers have seen an opportunity to mimic their actions. Termite ? inspired robots were created to help humans in making difficult tasks easier.

Decentralized, Reactive Building

Termites work by directly reacting to what they encounter, rather than being instructed what to do. Even with their tiny bodies, these termites can create a huge structure much larger than themselves. Justin Werfel and his colleagues from Harvard University?s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering said that termites indirectly coordinate by changing their shared environment. The team used this concept of decentralized, reactive building to create termite robots working under these principles.

If robots would behave this way, they can perform construction projects that are too dangerous for humans. This includes work in outer space or in underwater research stations. These termite ? inspired robots can also be used in building levees out of sandbags for flood ? prone areas.

These findings will be presented at the American Association for Advancement of Science and published in the journal Science this week. These tiny but mighty robots are 4.7 inches in height and have footprints of 4×7 inches. They can manipulate bricks made of expanded urethane form as big as 8.5 x 8.5 x 2 inches.

Building Staircases on ?Whegs?


Werfel and his team created algorithms to manage the behavior of these robots. This will let the termite robots know what to do during certain circumstances. They can move forward, backward and turn in place. They can climb up or down a step as high as a brick and build staircases using bricks to elevate themselves. They also know when other robots are within the immediate area. However, they cannot detect the more distant ones. These tiny robots use their ?whegs? or wheel legs to move around.

The team still has a lot of work to do on the development of the termite ? inspired robots. Werfel said it will take time to finally get these tiny robots to work on dangerous zones. However, he added that this study could be applied to building a base on Mars using the little robots.

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