Could Builder Robot Termites Be The Future?

Robot termites

Image courtesy of Eliza Grinnell, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

This is not strictly about self-build or custom build, but is quite remarkable nonetheless.

Engineers at Harvard University have performed an exciting demonstration with small robots that act like termites. These robot termites can build structures without the aid of humans, with no predefined plan, by following simple rules of self-organisation.

Individually, these robot termites are not the brightest, understanding a few simple rules – when to pick up a brick, put down a brick, climb up a structure or turn around. However together these wee robots can work in conjunction, capable of completing a predefined structure. Already these robots have built impressive metres-high structures.

At the AAAS event, Justin Werfel of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering along with his colleagues demonstrated how these robot termites can be programmed to build structures requested by humans.

“Termites are what inspired this whole research topic for us,” said Werfel. “We learned the incredible things these tiny insects can build and said: ‘Fantastic. Now how do we create and program robots that work in similar ways but build what humans want?’.

Such robots could be used in future in hazardous areas where it may be too dangerous for humans to go – such as earthquake disaster areas, flood zones or even into outer space.

We’re not saying that those of you who are looking to build your own house should be expecting to be able to hire a few robots to do it for you anytime soon. But who knows, a much more advanced version of this in the distant future, could be the future of housebuilding.

Find out more about robot termites by watching the video below and by reading this BBC article. It’s pretty cool!

Watch robot termites demonstration video below:

Demonstration of the robot termites at the Chicago meet of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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