December 2, 2020

They create small robots inspired by ants that work as a team – La Provincia

Little ones robots of 10 grams inspired by ants they have been developed in the EPFL (Switzerland). They can communicate with each other, assign roles between them and complete complex tasks together.

These reconfigurable robots have a simple structure, but they canaltar and crawl to explore uneven surfaces. The researchers have just published their work in Nature.

Individually, the ants have a lot of strength and intelligence. But nevertheless, as a colony, they can use complex strategies to complete sophisticated tasks and evade larger predators.

In EPFL (Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne), the robotics researchers in Professor Jamie Paik's Laboratory have reproduced this phenomenon, developing small robots that show a minimum physical intelligence at the individual level but who are able to communicate and act collectively.

Despite being simple in design and weighing only 10 grams, each robot has multiple modes of locomotion to navigate through any type of surface. Together, they can quickly detect and overcome obstacles and move objects much larger and heavier than themselves.

These three-legged T-shaped origami robots are called Tribots. They can be assembled in just a few minutes with thin sheets of different materials, which makes them suitable for mass production. Completely autonomous and without ties, the Tribots are equipped with infrared sensors and proximity for detection and communication purposes. They could accommodate even more sensors depending on the application.

"Their movements are based on those of the Odontomachus ants, these insects usually crawl, but to escape from a predator, they gather their powerful jaws to jump from one leaf to another," says Zhenishbek Zhakypov, first author. The Tribots replicate this catapult mechanism through an elegant origami design that combines multiple alloy actuators with shape memory.

As a result, a single robot can produce five different locomotion movements: vertical jump, horizontal jump, somersault to clear obstacles, walk on textured terrain and crawl on flat surfaces, like these creatively resistant ants.

Despite having the same anatomy, each robot is assigned a specific role depending on the situation. The "explorers"They detect physical obstacles in their path, such as objects, valleys and mountains." After detecting an obstacle, they inform the rest of the group.Leader"give the instructions, meanwhile, the"workers"they unite their strength to move objects." Each Tribot, like the Odontomachus ants, can have different roles. However, they can also assume new roles instantly when faced with a new mission or unknown environment, or even when other members are lost. This goes beyond what real ants can do, "says Paik.

In practical situations, such as an emergency search mission, the Tribots could be deployed en masse. And thanks to their multi-locomotive and multi-agent communication capabilities, they could quickly locate a target over a large area without relying on GPS or visual feedback.

"Since they can be manufactured and deployed in large quantities, having some" casualties "would not affect the success of the mission," adds Paik. "With their unique collective intelligence, our little robots can demonstrate better adaptability to unfamiliar environments, so for certain missions, they would outperform the larger and more powerful robots."

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