Walking robot from Aix-Marseille University uses polarized light to navigate, enabling it to explore randomly and find its way back.


  • Robust
  • Efficient


  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • Drones
  • Surveillance

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 9: Industry Innovation & Infrastructure

The Challenge

Typically, robots use GPS to navigate. Although it works well, the robots need to be in constant communication with satellites, which requires them to carry communication equipment. These requirements can restrict the robot from exploring areas with no satellite coverage. Additionally, the GPS equipment can be bulky, increasing the size of the robot.

Innovation Details

The robot, also called AntBot, uses an optical compass that is sensitive to the sky’s polarized light to remember its path. It does this using a technique called path integration. With path integration, the robot associates polarized light patterns with obstacles and counts strides to remember where it has been.

Biomimicry Story

Because pheromones are destroyed in extreme heat conditions, desert ants—unlike most ants—use atmospheric polarized light instead of pheromones to navigate. The desert ants use polarized patterns emitted through the sky as a compass to find their way in the world.