Termites inspire Harvard researchers to create autonomous building robots

Researchers at Harvard University have taken inspiration from the swarm construction method used by termites to create TERMES. These robots are intended as the first step in a project with the ultimate goal of creating a fully automated robotic workforce that can create complex structures without the need for centralized control. The robots are designed “with a philosophy of simplicity” needing to perform only a few simple functions with a high degree of reliability. 

Termites may be among the most repellent and invasive insects on the planet, but they’ve also provided the inspiration for a set of swarm-based construction robots designed by a group of Harvard researchers. The TERMES robot project is based on the behavior of actual termites: while the insects may be known for infesting homes, they also are skilled builders, making impressive, elaborate, and huge structures many times their size with little to no centralized guidance. The TERMES robots work under the same principle — they’re designed to construct 3D structures much larger than themselves with little oversight. The robots can manipulate and build up structures using specific types of blocks, can maneuver around the structures it builds, and multiple robots can take part and build up a user-defined structure. 

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