Mimicking The Behavior of Microorganisms
As A Potential Approach For Swarm Robotics
Scientific research is generally inspired by nature, particularly special and mysterious animal behavior. Many creatures like ants and bees use their clusters to complete a series of activities such as building a nest and searching for food. These biological behaviors provide potential roadmaps of interesting and useful ideas for human activities and research.
Recently, a group of scientists from the University of Leeds published an article about swarm robotics approach on arXiv. They attempted to use “swarm robots” to simulate the activities of some specific microorganisms.
According to Jordan Boyle, one of the researchers, swarm robots were inspired by the moving method of a special worm creature, called C. elegans. Researchers have found that this worm can use its sense of smell to search for food, and the cluster of C. elegans moves straight forward for a certain distance and then makes a random turn, when the smell of food is not sensed. However, once the smell in the front is getting strong, the probability of the turning decreases. On the contrary, if the smell in the front is going weak, the probability for their turn will increase. According to this interesting biological phenomenon, Boyle, Mehmet Dogar and Simon Obute in the research team copied the moving method of this group of worms into the design of swarm robots.
In the experiment, the researchers replaced the scent with sound, because they believe that sound is much easier for them to control and easier to receive by the sensor of swarm robots. The researchers mounted the sound sensors on the group of robots. Then, using the chemotaxis method, they controlled these swarm robots by creating the sound from one spot, and the swarm robots could in this way complete the collection of targets by searching based on the algorithm within specific range. This method effectively limits the searching range of the swarm robots without using a physical boundary, and the robots performed well and showed the accuracy of searching and collecting targets .
The research is currently in the experimental stage, but the researchers’ goal is to put swarm robots into reality. Boyle said that swarm robots can be made up by a group of small and inexpensive robots and they could perform a series of search functions in the real world.
According to Obute, the PhD student in the research team, the study of swarm robots may offer new opportunity for garbage collection in cities, and Boyle said that the technology could be used to test the completeness of the water systems.
Written by Yujia Zheng, Edited by James Mueller & Alexander Fleiss