If you observe an ant colony you will notice that there is no single or group of ants organising proceedings. However, ants are able to build relatively large complex structures and forage for food in a seemingly cooperative way. This observation in ants and other animals forms the basis of swarm robotics, which is concerned with modelling this cooperative behaviour in large groups of robots.
The following video is a good introduction into the current research of swarm robotics:
- Robots: Dependable Swarms – Interview with Professor Alan Winfield
- Swarm Robotics (Companion slides for the book Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence: Theories, Methods, and Technologies by Dario Floreano and Claudio Mattiussi, MIT Press) [PDF – 4.1MB]