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James McLurkin, Robotic Ants Inventor
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James McLurkin with several of his robotic ants


James McLurkin with several of his robotic ants



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Page from McLurkin’s notebook showing first sketches for robotic ants
Page from McLurkin’s notebook showing first sketches for robotic ants


Swarm of ants
Swarm of ants











What Does McLurkin Want His Robots To Do?

Through graduate work at UC Berkeley and MIT his work at IS Robotics, McLurkin has continued to develop projects integrating engineering and biology.

“I want my robots to be able to climb, pick things up, explore and map, find things, and locate and contain chemicals. The robots work together--if one finds “food,” it alerts the others, which then cluster around to “eat.” Now I’m experimenting with trail markers--like ants use--and cameras. Eventually I plan to design robots that build stuff. I want to give them raw materials and software and they’ll go do it.”

McLurkin’s insight that ants might be models for robot behavior is a good example of that common phrase “thinking outside the box.” Creative thinkers in many fields seem to have a facility for breaking out of usually accepted categories to create new patterns or combinations.

“My goal is the simulation of a natural system at high enough fidelity that I can take the robots around and help biologists understand what’s going on in real systems.”

Next: McLurkin as a Youth ›





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