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Post 75

Foraging ants as living particle filters

24-Feb-2013

Ant colonies are admirable examples of cooperative societies. Some of its members are prepared to build their complex lairs, some others constitute an army to protect their population, some others explore the outer world and gather food, etc. With respect to the latter function, which to me is the most representative of ant colony behaviour, I coded a simple simulation in JavaScript inspired by the js1k competition (demo and code available here).

image

The ants in the app have been implemented following a state machine. Initially, they forage for food, drawing a random walk while they operate in this searching-state. Once they find a source of nurture, the ants transit to another state where they return home, leaving a pheromone trail behind for others to follow. Finally, they end up in a loop going back and forth collecting more food. And as time goes by, more and more ants flock to the food-fetching loop. Therefore, they get the job done more rapidly and minimise the danger of an outer menace.

In a sense, foraging ants remind me of a particle filter where the particles are living beings moving stochastically to reach some objective. Thus, their behaviour could be cast as a biologically-inspired search algorithm for an optimisation procedure, considering that the objective is a cost function to be minimised.



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