Termites are not usually known for their construction. However, if you've ever seen a termite settlement that wasn't house-bound, you'll know that they can build elaborate structures, sometimes over 40 feet high. These huge termite castles are built cooperatively, but autonomously and without (researchers at Harvard suppose) any central control. This swarm construction is the basis for the TERMES robot. TERMES robots are given a blueprint and a set of traffic rules, and from there they work to complete their tasks, independent from but in parallel with, the others. Although they work most efficiently as a collective, each can build the project to completion independently.
Don't image search for "Termite." Just don't.
Equipped with ten sensors and three actuators, these cool crawlers respond visually to their environment and make decisions accordingly, without needing external aid or direction. It's a bold move, and one that pans out well when building large blocky, tiered structures. See them in action:
The robots' bodies feature termite-like pincers for gripping work material, a mercury tilt switch for keeping upright balance, and whegs (or "wheel-legs" to the uninitiated) designed to clamber up building material and over uneven terrain. Ideally, this strong step towards autonomous building will be adaptable for construction in dangerous or difficult environments. My fingers are crossed for Mars. Until then, they'll be upping their LEGO tower game.
Look out Gaudi, there's a new decentralized spire-building team in town.