TERMES project: An army of autonomous robots for achieving complex tasks
Termites inspiring robot designs? Well, that is exactly what Harvard scientists are looking forward to in their TERMES project, a bold endeavor for developing a fully self-organized legion of robots. Beyond the poetic quotient, these diminutive robots will be contrived in such a manner so that their collective group can function in an autonomous manner. In simpler terms, the robotic army can take up complex tasks, like building a three-dimensional object, without requiring the constant yoke of leadership or inputs (from humans). This entire TERMES endeavor (co-headed by Radhika Nagpal, Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University), is partly influenced by what is known as ‘stigmergy’ – a more intrinsic level of communication found in termites that allows them to observe and replicate the actions of their peers.
Now, when we are talking about the autonomous scope, it doesn’t only entail the robots working in unison in a linear mode. Rather the ambit also involves their adaptation to entire work type. This means – the TERMES robots will have to ability to calculate, estimate, organize and adjust, all in accordance to the particular scenario. These uniquely programmed capabilities can equate to advantageous ‘robot controlled’ situations in inaccessible areas like mines or in space.
Of course, the question naturally arises – how can complex tasks be achieved by the collective, ‘low level’ programming of the automatons? Well, according to the scientists, it is all based on ‘rules’ set up by the system. In this regard, the TERMES will generate its own set of low level rules that pertain to the task at hand. The robots can only rely on this locally set rule and act accordingly, thus eliminating any chance of acting autonomously beyond the work scenario.
At the end of the day, the TERMES is envisaged as the bridge between centralized and decentralized system. This eschews the need for constant supervision, while at the same time making the individual robot an insignificant part of larger significant work force.
Designing collective behavior –