Study: Termite Robots Build Castles, Pyramids

Robots modeled after termites are able to work independently and build castles according to a study released today in the journal Science. The ‘bots “use just a few simple rules and environmental cues” to construct pyramids and castles. 

The “termites” use sensors to detect other “termites” and bricks, acting according to rules in response external objects. Justin Werfel, a computer scientist at Harvard University who co-authored the study explained that the template for each three-dimensional structure is translated into a specific set of ‘traffic rules’ and combined with fixed laws of robot behavior.

The inclusion of rules is “brilliant from an engineering perspective”, says Alcherio Martinoli, a roboticist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. “It just decouples a complex reverse-engineering problem into two pieces of information which have to work together,” says Martinoli.