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The robot roach interacting with its live counterparts
New robots mimic, confuse live insects

A group of researchers led by Jose Halloy from the Université Libré de Bruxelles has succeeded in building a robotic cockroach convincing enough to fool the real thing. 

The robots looked nothing like real cockroaches, but were programmed with similiar behavior patterns.  Initially, the live bugs fled in fear from their robotic counterparts until Halloy hit upon the idea of coating his creations with roach pheremones.   The chemicals, which gave the robots the unique "smell" of a live roach, allowed the machines to be accepted as normal members of the roach clan. 

Most importantly, the robot cockroaches were actually able influence the behavior of the entire clan.  Normally cockroaches prefer dark places, and make a "collective" decision to pick a common shelter.  However, robotic infiltrators programmed to prefer brightly-lit shelters were often able to convince the entire roach clan to migrate to the new area.

In other cases, the live cockroaches were able to override the programming of the robots and force them to continue to nest in dark shelters.  According to Halloy, such experiments are critical to understanding the basis of biological intelligence and decision-making.

Halloy said his next step may be to build a robot chicken convincing enough for baby chicks to accept.  His research appears in the Thursday edition of the journal Science.


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RE: Wow... so what
By Parhel on 11/16/2007 3:08:36 PM , Rating: 2
I thought the same thing at first. Now I think, though, that the box in the center is the fake roach and all the others are real. In the article it said it looked nothing like a real roach, but it wasn't clear if they meant the early prototypes or the current one.


RE: Wow... so what
By glitchc on 11/16/2007 6:31:37 PM , Rating: 2
You're correct. There's no reason for it to look like a real roach, since the roaches cannot "see" very well in the conventional sense. Most insects do not have well-developed vision systems, make distinctions based on smell and touch. Some rely on sound as well. The high def vision we humans carry is very uncommon in nature. You need a pretty sophisticated brain to process the necessary visual algorithms in reasonably real-time.


RE: Wow... so what
By FITCamaro on 11/16/2007 11:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
So why do flies have 100s of eyes and process their sight many times faster than humans?


RE: Wow... so what
By AraH on 11/17/2007 9:14:58 AM , Rating: 2
"Compared with single-aperture eyes, compound eyes have poor image resolution; however, they possess a very large view angle and the ability to detect fast movement and, in some cases, the polarization of light." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compound_eye

they are more worried about movement than image quality...


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