Tinbergen in 1963 laid out the fundamental questions for the field of animal behaviour. They are identifying the function, evolution, causation and development of a particular behavior. Such a framework, however, has yet to appear for robotics. One solution to resolve this void is to understand the behaviour of animals and use the insights in robots. With this broad philosophy, I have worked on understanding cooperation in ants and using the understanding to design robots that cooperatively perform tasks such as construction and tunneling.
Cooperative task execution What are the sufficient rules for cooperation? Can cooperation arise only out of mechanistic interactions? How is collective decision reflected in tasks? Can we leverage cooperation for a particular task? We identify the interaction rules between the agents and the environment, mediated through communication channels that result in cooperation in a colony of carpenter ants and replicate the behaviour in a robotic platform consisting of ant-like robots that can communicate with each other and physically interact with its environment. Using this understanding we show that robots can collectively perform both construction and de-construction with simple changes in behavioral rules. See the article for further details.
Cooperative escape in ants and robots. Ganga Prasath, S.(+), Souvik Mandal(+), Fabio Giardina(+), Venkatesh Murthy, and Mahadevan, L. [biorXiv]
Collective phototactic robotectonics. Fabio Giardina(+), Ganga Prasath, S.(+) and Mahadevan, L. [arXiv]