Termite robots implement a project without central coordination

    A group of young scientists, specifically two charming girls and one young man from the Visa Institute *, working with Harvard, created mini-robots that replicate the complex behavior of termites when building termite mounds. We proceeded from the following premises:

    • the buildings are quite complicated
    • each participant in the process does not have developed intelligence
    • the whole project does not have general coordination

    As part of the study, a self-organizing robotic system was simulated in which the behavior of each robot fits into a simple set of conditions and is coordinated with the actions of other participants in the process. The project is self-regulatory on the basis of the here and now principle due to the mutual adjustment of the process participants within the framework of certain rules of behavior. In a word, robots themselves “decide” which block to put.

    * I’ll say right away that the Russian media research institute is mistakenly called the “Weiss Institute” - this confusion in pronunciation is clarified on the website of the institute itself .

    Vimeo: video experiment.

    The results of any successful scientific experiment can be of applied value even for areas that are not formally related to the subject of research. Recall that the Visa Institute develops materials for medicine based on technological copying of the functions and production processes of living organisms. Nevertheless, a model of a self-organizing system that performs a complex project without drawings may be of immediate interest to specialists in the field of project management.

    It remains only to wait, what conclusions from the experiment will be made by theorists of project management - will this result in the emergence of a new or revision of current methodologies? How much is it possible to use the resource of self-organization in organizing teams?

    In any case, it will be useful for managers to become familiar with the results of this experiment, confident that without their intervention the development team will fall into uncontrolled entropy. Of course, the project manager is an important figure, however, it is probably possible to develop a methodology where this role will be performed by the “collective mind” based on a specific set of “game rules” in the current situation. I think it’s easy to guess which of the current methodologies this most resembles — and draw the appropriate conclusions.

    The title topic of the journal Science - here you can find additional materials and videos.
    Science Magazine: Report February 14, 2014
    article on the BBC website , February 13, 2014
    Journal of elements: the publication in the ru-HETE

    More on this topic:
    habrahabr.ru - Flying robots build towers , January 14, 2012
    Wikipedia - swarm robotics
    Biomimetics (translation of the article on Inosmi website)
    Self-organization for work on projects: development at Valve


    Where: Visa Instituteat Harvard University. Research Institute, creates “technology inspired by nature” (Biologically Inspired Engineering) for implementation in the field of medicine.
    Who: Justin Werfel , Kirstin Petersen , Radhika Nagpal (All three are PhD in Computer Science, i.e. Ph.D., computer science)

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