Artificial Intelligence Review

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 255–268 | Cite as

Robots, insects and swarm intelligence

  • Amanda J. C. Sharkey


The aim of this paper is to consider the relationships between robots and insects. To this end, an overview is provided of the two main areas in which insects have been implicated in robotics research. First, robots have been used to provide working models of mechanisms underlying insect behaviour. Second, there are developments in robotics that have been inspired by our understanding of insect behaviour; in particular the approach of swarm robotics. In the final section of the paper, the possibility of achieving “strong swarm intelligence” is discussed. Two possible interpretations of strong swarm intelligence are raised: (1) the emergence of a group mind from a natural, or robot swarm, and (2) that behaviours could emerge from a swarm of artificial robots in the same way as they emerge from a biological swarm. Both interpretations are dismissed as being unachievable in principle. It is concluded that bio-robotic modelling and biological inspiration have made important contributions to both insect and robot research, but insects and robots remain separated by the divide between the living and the purely mechanical.


Swarm intelligence Strong artificial intelligence Swarm robotics Bio-robotics Biological inspiration Social insects Emergence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of Sheffield Regent CourtSheffieldUK

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