Engineering 101

Bug Inspired AI for Autonomous Robots

We find inspiration where we can. In this case, it came from bugs. Drones, rovers, and legged robots perform many tasks, from autonomously monitoring crops in greenhouses to last-kilometer delivery. These applications need robots to operate for extended periods while performing complex tasks in equally complicated environments.

In an article published in Science Robotics, researchers from Delft University of Technology, the University of Washington and the University of Sheffield assert that one should draw inspiration from insects when creating the AI for small, autonomous robots. We know that insect intelligence allows for minimalistic yet robust solutions that they use to behave successfully in complex, dynamic environments.

Researchers explain the governing principles that underly the efficiency and robustness of insect intelligence and provide an overview of existing robotics research that has leveraged these principles, and identify challenges and opportunities ahead. In particular, advances in biology and technology allow for more fine-grained investigations of insect brains. Moreover, progress in sensing and computing hardware will enable robots to approach the energy efficiency and speed of insect sensing and neural processing. These developments accelerate the creation of insect-inspired AI for autonomous robots, leading to start-ups in this field.

The article published in Science Robotics is a “review” article. Here we provide some examples of the authors’ previous research studies so that one can imagine the ramifications of exploiting insect AI.

Swarm of tiny drones can localize gas leaks

AntBot: A walking robot that uses sky polarization for navigation

The first wireless flying robotic insect takes off

Sophisticated Collective Foraging with Minimalist Agents: 50-Robot Swarm

One of the authors, James Marshall, is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Opteran – a company that focuses on bringing insect AI to autonomous robots

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