Robotic Ants Farm
November 25, 2009
Well, Aniss1001 brought up in an other topic the idea of creating a swarm of robots. This reminded me of an idea I had 5 years ago, when I was in the States and building Lego Robots. Funny thing, a quick search on the net at that time revealed several similar projects. Also, my inexperience at that time with non Lego robots didn't let me put it in practice.
So, here's the idea:
A closed environment, something like a fish tank, but perhaps lower walls. The floor painted black, walls grey. There are 2 opposite corners or sides where a white line delimits the "home perimeter" for the robots. Inside that perimeter there is a charging station with aluminum foil on the ground and ceiling so the robot's feelers can touch both to charge the batteries. The charging power comes from solar panels, so the entire project is self sustained. The charging station emits a coded IR beam that all robots can see so they can find it when charge is needed. This is mounted on a pole like a flag. The robots are divided in 2 teams, each team has the same (power LED) color (red or green). Each team "speaks" different IR frequency (something like 32kHz and 56kHz) so they don't interfere too much. Besides the 4 IR receivers (and emitter), the robots have bumpers, an IR eye and a mandible, so they can detect and grab small white foam cubes that are spread around in the environment. People can add more cubes from time to time through a whole in the environment ceiling, like feeding the fish. The robots search for the cubes and bring them home to build a wall to protect their home and flag. They will also try to capture the other team's flag and bring it to their home. Inside the home perimeter, a "queen" robot is using the cubes to actually build a 2 layer wall.
Until the HXT900 servos became available (so cheap) I had no idea what kind of motors I could use for the robots, so I can build them small enough. Now, I think this project can be done nicely with a budget of about $200 for 10 robots. One queen and 4 ants in each team. Each robot can be powered by a small cell phone battery and there are solar chargers for them not too expensive.
Some more thoughts:
Robots can be made identical, they could use a bi-color LED and IR receivers for both frequencies so they can switch sides for instance, the queen can "hypnotize" them to get them on her side for a certain time. Or they can pretend to be on the other side to steal the flag...
Anyway, let me know what you guys think!