Saturday, April 13, 2013

Robots successfully pretended to be a colony of ants

  Scientists from the French scientific center CNRS created computer algorithm which allows robots to imitate behavior of a colony of ants. Work of the French scientists shows that for performance of various tasks and the organization of such difficult systems as the ant hill, is enough of the elementary program and hardware.
  Interaction between certain individuals and separate objects plays the major role in formation of self-organizing collective behavior. The last researches showed that ants move on the confused footpaths and corridors in and outside of an ant hill, being guided on four various miscellaneous information type.
Some species of ants are capable to see and are guided by the sun or to reference points on the way.
  Other ants at all use a peculiar inertial navigation system: summarize movement vectors, measuring quantity of steps and body turns. Also ants can use social information, for example, loaded фуражиров to determine by food the direction by existence to food or to find a footpath on certain traces (slices of leaves, seeds, etc.).

  The last type of information, the fourth, is most interesting and consists in the structure of ant tracks. At some species of ants transport networks have strictly certain drawing: the average corner between the footpaths leaving the center of an ant hill, is symmetric and lies in the range of 50-100 degrees depending on a species of ants. Thus, when the ant moves to an exit from an ant hill, it faces symmetric bifurcation (division) of footpaths and corridors. On the way back the ant sees the return picture: asymmetric bifurcation. To find the shortest route, the ant simply chooses the necessary angle of rotation and always follows in the necessary direction.
  This simple natural mechanism has huge practical potential for a robotics and transport networks. To show the elementary natural algorithm of ant navigation is how effective, scientists made the model of courses of an ant hill of a cardboard. In courses 9 cm wide started the elementary robots which worked according to ant logic. Robots with dimensions 22×21×20 in mm were equipped with 4 infrared sensors for detection of obstacles. Also there was a photo diode for measurement of gradients of light (a pheromone carrying out a role) and Ni-MH the accumulator with an energy stock for work within 3,5 hours. The simple PIC16LF877 microcontroller from 8 Kb of EPROM of memory, and 368 bytes of random access memory was "brain" of the robot.
  As a result robots surely were guided in a labyrinth, using all types of behavior of insects, including search (wandering in search of the correct route) and evasion (an obstacle detour on other route). Research of the French scientists not only gives new knowledge of behavior of colonies of insects, but also allows to use effective natural algorithms in existing technogenic transport networks.

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