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Science. 2014 Feb 14;343(6172):754-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1245842.

Designing collective behavior in a termite-inspired robot construction team.

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Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

Erratum in

  • Science. 2014 Feb 28;343(6174):969.


Complex systems are characterized by many independent components whose low-level actions produce collective high-level results. Predicting high-level results given low-level rules is a key open challenge; the inverse problem, finding low-level rules that give specific outcomes, is in general still less understood. We present a multi-agent construction system inspired by mound-building termites, solving such an inverse problem. A user specifies a desired structure, and the system automatically generates low-level rules for independent climbing robots that guarantee production of that structure. Robots use only local sensing and coordinate their activity via the shared environment. We demonstrate the approach via a physical realization with three autonomous climbing robots limited to onboard sensing. This work advances the aim of engineering complex systems that achieve specific human-designed goals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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