Spanish Team Goes Ant for Combat, Logistic Algorithm

In the rock-paper-scissors game of life, nature beats nurture, and here's the proof: A hook-up in Spain between geeks and the military has begot an algorithm for troops' battlefield maneuvers based on the behavior of ant colonies.

army antsThe AI software, known as a multi-objective ant colony optimization algorithm (MOACO) studied just how those six-legged crumb bandits get from their colony to the food. Then scientists plugged that info into a mini-simulator based on the video game "Panzer General" to test their theories before handing over to a couple of officers from Doctrine and Training Command for further development.

Rather than seeing their invention in a purely martial light, the algorithm's creators have hopes that it will function in a non-military environment. "It could be useful to solve planning problems for the distribution of goods, trying to serve the highest possible number of customers starting from a central warehouse, considering the lowest possible number of vehicles." Or, we might suggest, distributing vital goods in a disaster relief effort—anyone who's ever kicked an anthill will attest to the buggers' skills in that situation.

So how, exactly, did this piece of research actually came about? My money's on a bunch of computer nerds, a lost weekend spent playing "General Panzer" in a den, Cheeto crumbs, ant invasion, bong, lightbulb moment followed by realization final year project seriously in danger, another bong followed by Eureka! moment, squaring it with Computer Science tutor, Comp Sci tutor getting excited, contacting military.

It's just a theory.

[The Register]

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  • JJ Merelo

    Not too far off mark, but the basic idea came from the Army, who wanted to have smarter, or at least less labor intensive, enemies in combat training. All Army drills involve, Turing-test style, trainer and trainee in front of the computer, each one of them painstakingly moving units over the battlefield. The initial objective was take out some work off the hands of trainer by having an algorithm move units in the most realistic way; and that was basically achieved, only not on the real Spanish Army simulator.