urban anthill


Ants have evolved an intricate system that enables each member of a colony to be a productive contributor. There is no central control source in ant colonies. There is no one ant, not even the queen, that sends out directions that tell each of the thousands of ants in the colony what work to perform. Ants instead use pheromones, or chemical markers, to communicate with one another and decide what jobs to do. In ant colonies, there are specific jobs that groups of ants perform. For instance, one group of ants forages for food, another group patrols around the nest, while a third group takes care of the inside of the nest.  Ant colonies have a system of communication for organizing the efforts of all of its members. Ants talk to each other using chemical signals called pheromones that they detect with their antennas. Simply put, they use their antennas to pick up smells. For example, when forger ants find food, they leave a pheromone trail from the food source back to the colony. Other ants then follow this trail to the food. As other ants follow the trail, the pheromone scent becomes stronger. If an obstacle gets in the way of the route to the food source, the ants figure out another path to the food and thus establish an alternate pheromone trail. The odor of the original trail begins to dissipate as it is no longer used.

Ant Jobs in Colony Change

According to ant biologist Deborah M. Gordon, ants do not always perform the same job. They switch from one task to another depending on the immediate needs of the colony. Gordon describes how ants rely on their olfactory sense to decide what job to do at a particular time. “No ant can assess the global situation [of the colony],” she explains, so the insects have to rely on their sense of smell to figure out what work to do. Ants are covered with a layer of oil. They cover one another with this colony-specific grease during grooming. They pick up the scent of this oil by touching their antennas together. The scent of the oil changes depending on the specific job an ant is performing. Ants decide what job to perform based on the rate at which they meet other ants performing particular tasks.

Ant Communication

Ants’ sense of smell is much more developed than their eyesight. For this reason, they depend primarily on their antennas, though which they pick up different smells, to talk to one another and determine which groups of insects should be doing which jobs.



Anthill: Take sharing mainstream

Using surplus in our society comes with a certain stigma. There are places where you can drop off your clothes or surplus of food but these places are most often inconvenient to reach as it takes and extra journey to get there. Therefore, it seems to be easier to throw stuff away instead of sharing it with people in need. Anthill is a new way of sharing inspired by the way ants transport goods. Ants make use of surplus or objects that still have a value. High frequency routes enable ants to transport their goods efficiently and temporarily store them in places until other ants pick them up. So why cannot we make use of this behaviour to make sharing and using surplus a mainstream activity?


Our life evolves around places which we visit on a regular basis: supermarkets, shopping malls, etc. . The idea behind Anthill is to make use of these places as they have a high frequency of visitors. So why not facilitate sharing in these places. The idea behind Anthill is to make sharing surplus and unused valueable items as convenient as possible. Therefore, you just need to put these items in a so called sharebox, tell the system what is in the box by using either a smartphone app, web app or tablet app and drop it off e.g. on your next shopping trip in the nearby supermarket. Staff at the shops then put these items in a share shelf where people can take them and check them out at the cash desk as they do with regular items. Anthill defines three user roles: facilitators, givers and takers. Facilitators provide the necessary infrastructure which includes a drop off station, the possibility to get empty share boxes and a share shelf within the shopping area. Givers share their surplus and valuable items. Takers make use of the items. It is important to note that we want to facilitate the paradigm of “giver-takers” which means that everyone can be both giver and taker at the same time thus eliminating the stigma. Finally, as the system knows what is in the boxes you can also browse and search for items among all available facilitators via a web interface.

CITY ANALYSIS networks crowds and markets

Copenhagen is a city with 1.5 million inhabitants and is considered as the best place for people public life. With the system it would be possible to collect data about people locations in this region. Different items registered by the user means different kind of activities. Providing information about where do people spend the time. Lively streets are usually the result of basic activities like going to work and back home, making grocery. As street space stay occupied by pedestrians making diary activities it leads to provoke the vibrancy of the space and makes it interesting for people that are looking for a place to spend their free time. As good public spaces play an important role on how the city is experienced, studying of street uses in the city is crucial. In a field of markets it is useful to know what are the needs of society. By analysing what products are exchanged we can learn about human behaviour to meet people expectations and provide a suited amount of focusing points.

SCRIPTING AND PROTOTYPE particles and forces

The free flow of particles around their location point that creates a movement of inhabitants around most used places. The move is based on forces between buildings and particles itself. I played around with different algorithms to provide the visual flow of the crowd. Hooke’s law is a principle of physics that states that the force F needed to extend or compress a spring by some distance X is proportional to that distance.

While sampling the map of Copenhagen you can navigate between parameters:
Length the string will try to reach (rest length)
Distance below which springs would work (cutoff)
Repulsion forces as a function of distance (strength)
Rotation force about an axis (votex)