The ants replicate the teamwork shown by the real insects to carry out tasks beyond their individual means

Robotic ants the size of your hand may sound like the true stuff of nightmares but a German company has developed a team of the robotic insects to attempt to portray the future of factory work.

Developed by engineering firm Festo, the artificial ants replicate the cooperative behaviour of the real insects by making individual decisions that relate to a common goal.

Teamwork enables the robotic ants to carry out complex tasks that they wouldn’t be able to complete individually, such as moving large objects as shown in the video above.

The ants are loaded with stereo cameras on their heads, sensors that feel the floor beneath them and grippers that allow them to carry out the work.

The design of the robots is unique in that heir plastic body is 3D-printed with electronic circuits overlaid on top by a machine and their six legs are created from ceramic actuators that are able to bend quickly and precisely whilst using little energy and remaining compact.

The goal of the project, according to a New Scientist report, is: “to create intelligent agents that can work efficiently in factories of the future by adapting to different production requirements.”

This isn’t the first time that Festo has delved into animatronics. The company has previosuly created robotic kangaroos that bounce on flexible blades, a bionic elephant’s trunk that can be trained to pick up objects and bionic penguins that are able to paddle through water.

The ants will be presented next month at Hannover Messe, the world’s biggest industrial technology trade fair, from 13 to 17 April, alongside more of Festo’s recent creations, including cooperative artificial butterflies.

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