Here's an article that gives a good overview of swarm intelligence, a key field of research in artificial intelligence. The emergent properties of biological swarms are fascinating and could eventually contribute to enhanced organization of both humans and robots.

If you have ever observed ants marching in and out of a nest, you might have been reminded of a highway buzzing with traffic. To Iain D. Couzin, such a comparison is a cruel insult — to the ants.

Iain D. Couzin, above, and his colleagues are discovering rules that allow swarms to work effectively.

Americans spend a 3.7 billion hours a year in congested traffic. But you will never see ants stuck in gridlock.

Army ants, which Dr. Couzin has spent much time observing in Panama, are particularly good at moving in swarms. If they have to travel over a depression in the ground, they erect bridges so that they can proceed as quickly as possible.

“They build the bridges with their living bodies,” said Dr. Couzin, a mathematical biologist at Princeton University and the University of Oxford. “They build them up if they’re required, and they dissolve if they’re not being used.”

There isn't anything new in the article, but for someone who isn't familiar with swarming it makes a good read. These sorts of group-intelligence algorithms will be particularly important for small, cheap robots, from unmanned aerial vehicles to spy bots to submarines.

(HT: Dan.)

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