VietNamNet Bridge – A new robot which imitates the activities of ants, one of the smallest creatures in nature, has been successfully invented by two students from HCM City University of Technogoly, Trần Văn Vinh and Phạm Ngọc Anh Tùng.
Multi-purpose: The robot can be used in biology to explore the movements and reactions of real creatures, as well as in terrain reconnaissance to gather information about temperature, humidity and pressure.
To most people, ants might have little use. But for Vinh and Tùng, the six-legged insect provided valuable inspiration.
“Ants are perhaps a strangest creature in nature. They can live in dangerous environments where human beings have trouble. So I wanted to create a robot that could replace people working in those environments, reducing the risk to humans,” says Vinh.
The robot not only simulates an ants behaviour but looks like a real ant, with two claws and six feet joined to a firm structure. Its head surrounds four engines, with two engines for each claw.
The claws pick up objects, while the induction system installed under its feet help the robot feel each touch point. A camera is installed on the robots head to help it picture the environment.
“The camera lets internet users around the world see every image the ant sees,” says Vinh excitedly.
The robot can be used in biology to explore the movements and reactions of real creatures, as well as in terrain reconaissance to gather information about environment temperature, humidity and pressure. The tiny object can also be made into a high-tech toy with eye-catching features.
“Previously, I made several small robots that simulated the behaviour of other creatures, but they failed to work. The ant robot is the most efficient product weve ever made,” Vinh says.
Tùng, Vinhs partner in invention, has mixed recollections of the time the two spent making the robot.
“It took us six months of working day and night to develop the idea and bring it to completion,” Tùng says. “We had lots of fights and quarrels, since disagreements always broke out between us. It was very difficult to combine the aesthetic design and the computer software. For instance, if I wanted to add a detail to make it look neater, it would reduce the robots range of motion.”
Insect inspiration: To most people, ants have little use. But for Vinh and Tùng, the six-legged insects provided valuable ideas.
Vinh and Tùng, who both study at the Electronics Faculty, show a clear pride in the product. Still, they admit that it has some limitations.
“The robot works properly and smoothly when reporting outside information. However, it can only run on flat surfaces. It cant scramble up the stairs, a weakness we have not figured out how to fix,” says Tùng.
Still, given its useful advantages, the students believe that the robot will soon be replicated in other universities and colleges around the country.
“We do not wish to sell it, but if we were to sell it, US$20 for each robot would be a suitable price! We also hope that the robot will be used in teaching programmes,” says the 22-year-old. He reveals that the robot will be donated to the universitys science club while he and Vinh work on other projects.
Previously, Tùng has participated in Robocon 2010 and Robocon Techshow 2011, two of the largest-scale robot contests in Việt Nam.
“Perhaps our next project will be another kind of robot. Were always trying to discover something new to develop our skills,” says Tùng.