Robots photo

In a lab in Germany lives a strange breed of ant. These ants have ceramic limbs and 3D-printed bodies. They gain sustenance by charging their batteries through metal antennae against electric rails. Where eyes should be there are two parts of a stereo camera. Underneath each thorax sits an optical sensor pulled from a computer’s mouse. All along the body, like stripes from a biomechanical tiger, are circuits and electric conduits. These bionic ant mimics are the size of a human hand. There are at least a dozen of them, and they’re learning to work together.

Made by Festo, a German engineering firm, these ant bots move via piezoelectric materials, with tiny electric charges inching their legs along.

The ant bots use their cameras to navigate and wireless communication to stay in touch–just like millenials. In the future, they may find work on factories, perhaps clearing up scraps from work-room floors after hours. Watch the ants work together below: