Ants have always astounded researchers through the way in which their whole society functions as an effective and sometimes even lethal machine, every individual ant having its own exact purpose in the grand scheme of the whole colony. By further studying a specific type of ants, scientists have now come to the conclusion that army ants could pave the way for advancements in robotics.
Army ants are a particular part of the and kingdom, with colonies sometimes reaching up to one million members. What sets them apart from other ants is their capability of constructing bridges from workers in order to facilitate travel throughout the environment they live in.
Up to this point, researchers and scientists have thought that once this type of bridge is constructed, between two branches, for instance, it will remain there for an undetermined period of time without shifting at any point. By further extending the study, they have found that this is not actually the case.
The ant bridges will move and relocate in accordance with the necessities of the colony, creating shortcuts and even becoming wider if the need arises. This is largely due to the fact that ants, bees and other insects have a sort of hive mind, a central network of intelligence, without having one particular individual that calls the shots. They act as one single organism comprised of thousands of individuals, each and every one of them contributing to the central intelligence network, or hive-mind.
By doing this, they are capable of adapting at a much faster rate to a new environment or to different occurrences that happen around them. Another interesting fact about these ants is their skill of assessing the cost and the value of such bridges because they contain workers that could potentiality help the colony even more if they would be able to work instead of being part of a bridge. This cost-to-benefit analysis is something that army ants do constantly as they attempt to constantly remain in balance.
This type of hive mind could be applied to our journey to create self-sufficient robots. If the focus is not entirely put on one single individual robot, instead of focusing on an entire swarm, they will be capable of assessing and reacting at higher speeds when compared to one vastly superior individual. The saying “two heads are better than one” becomes much greater when applied to one million heads that are all linked together.
Because army ants could pave the way for advancements in robotics, the next step in this study is to further ascertain the inner working of the hive mind in order to one day apply it in our robotic technology and advancements, until we are able to create a similar sort of hive mind that can change and shift itself in order to better suit its needs.