Looking for environmental spills poses numerous hazards to humans so robots have been used sometimes for that thankless job. In a new study published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, Japanese researchers are trying to create new ones, with the help of those small creatures called moths.
Dr. Noriyasu Ando, lead author of the research, hopes that by studying the moths movement and behavior while “driving” a small robot, they can design these autonomous robots who will eventually be able to seek out environmental spills. In the experiment, male silkworm moths are placed on top of a track ball that is similar to those found in a computer mouse. They then dropped pheromones from female moths at the opposite end of the track ball to motivate the male ones to move forward. The pheromones are being blown by two tiny fans to replicate the beating of the wings. As the male moth walks, he spins the ball that actually directs the robots. The scientists used 14 moths in this experiment, oftentimes placing them in adverse situations or “extraordinary situations” to see if they could adapt to the changes. Despite the hindrances created, the moths were still able to go towards the source of the pheromone.
Dr. Ando said that by observing and tracking the paths the moths make, they’ll be able to teach a robot to act that way as well. “The simple and robust odor tracking behavior of the silkmoth allows us to analyze its neural mechanisms from the level of a single neuron to the moth’s overall behavior,”, he shared. “By creating an ‘artificial brain’ based on the knowledge of the silkmoth’s individual neurons and tracking behavior, we hope to implement it into a mobile robot that will be equal to the insect-controlled robot developed in this study,” he added.
[ via Red Orbit ]