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Six-legged robot copies desert ants to navigate without GPS

A new robot can navigate without GPS, using the same light-sensing abilities as desert ants.

Inspiration: Desert ants survive in searingly hot conditions in the Sahara. They sometimes have just a few minutes to forage for food before they risk burning to death. As a result, they are very efficient navigators, using bands of polarized light, invisible to humans, to get around. They also carefully count their steps. These two tactics help to keep them alive.

AntBot: The bot, described this week in Science Robotics, uses light to work out the direction it’s going in, and counts its steps, much like its desert muse. It successfully managed to complete an outdoor homing task, where it was required to go to several checkpoints, then return to a fixed location within a range of 14 meters.

Uses? The technology could help provide back-up navigation if GPS fails, an issue which is particularly problematic for driverless cars.


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