Video: Robotic Ants Offer Transportation Design Tips
A study of how robotic ants navigate by following trails of light and maintaining their individual orientations to a path may help make human transportation networks more efficient. (Source: PLOS Computational Biology)
Thanks, Cabe. This one was especially fun. I've always liked biology and nature studies in general, and am fascinated with animal behavior, and with insects--they're so ALIEN (that's both a sci-fi joke and a serious statement). Yes, I remember those honeybee studies. Another thing about insects is their intelligence, at least in the collective sense.
This article was truly fascinating. I can remember some academic institution using honeybees in order to map the fastest distance traveled between a series of flowers and applied that logic to solve complex math problems. Nature sure has a way of making things efficient.
Elizabeth, thanks--isn't this one fun? We've got carpenter ants here in the redwood forest, which will eat your house almost as fast as termites do--scary things. But I find ants fascinating, too: they have technologies and what might even be called a culture, in the anthropological sense. But I digress. I found the intersection structure design the most interesting part of the study, which helps them know which way they're headed.
TJ, interesting point about congestion, since the researchers' conclusions are that most ants follow where other ants have gone (via pheromones), and that combined with the right intersection design will mean that most ants take the shortest path. It makes me wonder if, for ants, there are built-in limits on hive size, so congestion of the type humans create doesn't occur.
The tale of the audience 'group flying' the plane is brain-opening...
A lot of other topics in the article, but the distributed control discussions makes me want to build a couple hundred dumb 'bots and turn them loose in the back yard to see what kind of neural net structures they 'decide' to assemble.
This is fascinating, Ann. Ants honestly are some of the most amazing creatures in the natural world, even if they are also some of the most annoying. (I am fighting an ant infestation at my house at the moment, hence my irritation with the little buggers.) Though they are small, they are quite complex creatures! I am not surprised that their behavior could be used to inform technology and design in this way.
The video was fascinating! The final demonstration in it, where the alternate paths sometimes got highlighted just a bit made me think about alternate routes for commuting when the primary is congested (the brightest path in this video).
Sometimes the shortest timed route is not the shortest distance if the shortest distance is heavily traveled. Applying this research will still need to take this into account.
The Space Kid, 11, will be one of the first civilians to have his design manufactured in space by NASA, thanks to the City X Project, which inspires kids to think about new 3D-printed inventions that could be useful for humans living in space.
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