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Swarm IntelligenceFrom Natural to Artificial Systems$
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Eric Bonabeau, Marco Dorigo, and Guy Theraulaz

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780195131581

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195131581.001.0001

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Cooperative Transport by Insects and Robots

Cooperative Transport by Insects and Robots

Chapter:
(p.253) Chapter 7 Cooperative Transport by Insects and Robots
Source:
Swarm Intelligence
Author(s):

Eric Bonabeau

Marco Dorigo

Guy Theraulaz

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195131581.003.0011

Collective robotics is a booming field, and cooperative transport—particularly cooperative box-pushing—has been an important benchmark in testing new types of robotic architecture. Although this task in itself is not especially exciting, it does provide insight into the design of collective problem-solving robotic systems. One of the swarm-based robotic implementations of cooperative transport that seems to work well is one that is closely inspired by cooperative prey retrieval in social insects. Ants of various species are capable of collectively retrieving large prey that are impossible for a single ant to retrieve. Usually, a single ant finds a prey item and tries to move it alone; when successful, the ant moves the item back to the nest. When unsuccessful, the ant recruits nestmates through direct contact or trail laying. If a group of ants is still unable to move the prey item for a certain time, specialized workers with large mandibles may be recruited in some species to cut the prey into smaller pieces. Although this scenario seems to be fairly well understood in the species where it has been studied, the mechanisms underlying cooperative transport—that is, when and how a group of ants move a large prey item to the nest—remain unclear. No formal description of the biological phenomenon has been developed, and, surprisingly, roboticists went further than biologists in trying to model cooperative transport: perhaps the only convincing model so far is one that has been introduced and studied by roboticists [207] and, although this model was not aimed at describing the behavior of real ants, few adjustments would be required to make it biologically plausible. This chapter first describes empirical research on cooperative transport in ants, and then describes the work of Kube and Zhang [205, 206,207, 209]. A small prey or food item is easily carried by a single ant.

Keywords:   Aphaenogaster albisetosus, Dorylus, Eciton burchelli, Formica schaufussi, Lasius neoniger, Myrmica lugubris, Novomessor albisetosus, Oecophylla smaragdina, Paraponera clavata

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