Simple guidelines keep machines hauling and placing bricks
Courtesy of Eliza Grinnell/Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Human construction crews, meet RoboTermites. Like the mound-building insects, these squat little robots can erect complicated structures without an instruction manual.
Using just a few preprogrammed rules, some traffic laws and a stack of foam bricks, the bots get busy building towers, pyramids and fortresslike walls, Harvard computer scientist Justin Werfel and colleagues report in the Feb. 14 Science.
One day, such robotic builders might be able to take on risky human jobs, such as building sandbag levees during floods. And like a termite or ant colony that gets stepped on, Werfel says, “it doesn’t matter if some of the robots are lost — the rest will keep going.”
Termites are architects of the insect world. The itty bitty animals paste together dirt and chewed-up bits of wood to build mansion-style mounds, with open chimneys and