Desert ants are extraordinary lonely navigators. Scientists were inspired by these ants as they designed AntBot, the first walking robot to explore its environment randomly and go home automatically without GPS or mapping. This work opens up new strategies for navigation in autonomous vehicles and robotics.
Human eyes are insensitive to polarized light and ultraviolet radiation, but this is not the case for ants using it to locate in space. Cataglyphis desert marshes especially can cover hundreds of feet in direct sunlight in the desert to find food, then return in a straight line to the nest, without losing. They cannot use pheromones: they come out when the temperature will burn the least. Their extraordinary navigation talent depends on two pieces of information: the headline measured by a kind of "celestial compass" to orientate itself through the polarized light of the skies and the distance covered, measured by merely counting steps and incorporating the velocity of movement relative to the sun is measured optically. of their eyes. Distance and headline are the two basic types of information that once combined allow them to return second.
AntBot, the all-new robot designed by CNRS and Aix-Marseille University (AMU) researchers at ISM, copies desert ants & # 39; extraordinary navigation capabilities. It is equipped with an optical compass that is used to determine its headline by polarized light and by an optical motion sensor directed to the sun to measure the distance agreed. Armed with this information, AntBot has proven to be like the desert marshes exploring its environment and returning to its base with a precision of up to 1
This work received support from Direction Générale de l & # 39; Armement, CNRS, AMU, Provence-Alpes-Cote d & # 39; Azur region and from ANR under the Equipex / Robotex project.
* – This compass consists of only two pixels topped by two polarized filters that correspond to an optical sensor consisting of two rows of 374 pixels. Turning filters mechanically is an innovation that has significantly reduced the sensor's production costs from over € 78,000 to just a few hundred euros within the framework of biomimetics.
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