- Researchers have created a miniature robot modeled after trap-jaw ants.
- Dubbed “Tribot,” the small robot has potential for multiple applications, including scouting and exploration missions as well as emergency search and relief efforts.
Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Osaka University in Japan have collaborated to create “Tribot,” a small robot that’s been modeled after trap-jaw ants. The Tribots weigh 10 grams and are designed to function like trap-jaw ants do in their colonies, where each member has a designated role like leader and worker.
Since it’s completely untethered, Tribot’s adaptability has the potential for various applications, including emergency relief situations and exploration missions. Plus, if one Tribot within a colony breaks down or malfunctions, another can take its place so that missions don’t need to be delayed.
“Just like insects, small robots can be powerful,” Jamie Paik, director of the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at EPFL, tells Nature.
Paik also notes that smaller robots can create a swarm to operate in a similar capacity to full-size robots, but have the added advantage of being able to disassemble and retain their miniature size, ideal for carrying out duties in small spaces.
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In their paper, the researchers shared that Tribot can be set to different power levels and features five gait styles for various terrain and circumstances: vertical jumping for height, horizontal jumping for distance, somersault jumping to clear obstacles, walking on textured terrain, and crawling on flat surfaces.
Each Tribot has a built-in battery and sensors that tell it when there is an obstacle in the way. This allows the Tribot to tell the other robo-ants that it needs help or to simply let the colony know to wait before moving forward. Currently, Tribots only exist as prototypes.