Thursday, November 15, 2007

Robo-Roaches Can Control Insect Groups

Via National Geographic:

Cockroaches will often choose shelter unwisely when under the influence of robots, a new study shows.

Usually when the creepy crawlers are let loose in a brightly lit area, they gather under the darkest shade they can find.

"Nice means dark, for a cockroach," said lead study author Jose Halloy, a social ecologist at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium. "They look for shadows."

But when the bugs were joined by tiny robots designed to smell and behave like roaches, the machines were able to control the insects' behavior.

If the robots lingered beneath a less desirable, more brightly lit shelter, for example, the cockroaches did too—a choice they rarely made when the robots weren't around.

The findings show that such robots can influence group behavior in animals, the authors report in this week's issue of the journal Science.

This means that the tiny machines could be valuable tools in helping to understand how animals that move in swarms make collective decisions.

Susan Brown
for National Geographic News
November 15, 2007

Read rest of link here

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