AntBot navigates around without using GPS with pinpoint accuracy
All of the robots we know that can navigate on their own tend to rely on the GPS technology. A few scientists in France have now found an alternative technique where the robot moves on six legs and walks around and navigate like an ant.
Researchers from the CNRS Institute and the Aix-Marseille University have collaborated to bring to life what they call an AntBot. The navigation of the robot mimics the movements of the Cataglyphis desert ant which has the ability to travel more than a hundred miles away from its colony and not get lost.
A Cataglyphis desert ant cannot use the help of a pheromone trail to find its way back to its colony due to the desert habitat and extreme sunlight. Instead, it uses two other techniques: In the first technique the ant will keep track of its positioning with respect to the patterns of the polarized light in the sky. These patterns are always visible to the ant eye no matter the weather. Secondly, the ant can count the steps using optic flow which is a process that allows an observer to keep count of the rate at which they pass a surface or object in the environment.
In a very similar manner, the AntBot also utilizes these techniques. It includes an optical compass which can be used to track the polarized light in the sky. Additionally, an optical movement sensor has been integrated which can calculate just how far the robot has come from its start. With the help of all these techniques the robot can move around its surroundings and cover a distance of 14 meters and still be able to find its way back with an accuracy of 1 cm.
The technology makes us hopeful for the near future, when it can be used in situations where navigation is needed through terrains during a disaster. This could prove potentially important in regions and times when a GPS fails to work.