Robots driven by insects won’t surprise you in the future, would they? But it did surprise us all as the researchers from the University of Tokyo have devised an ingenious yet simple system that drives a two-wheeled robot to its destination commanded by the male silkmoth. Yes, a male silkmoth that takes driving seat as it is driven by the sex pheromone of female. The moth is placed on a rolling polystyrene ball and the pheromone scent is directed towards the moth using two fans. This way the male silkmoth keeps running in the direction of scent and subsequently drives the robot. The study included experimenting with 14 silkmoths successfully guiding the robot to its destination.
To challenge moth’s ability to adapt to the situation, researchers made a turning bias by changing the power of robot’s two motors so that it swerved to one side while moving, and the silkmoth successfully adapted the movement to keep on moving towards the source of scent. The whole idea of this exercise is to develop biometric models for autonomous sensory robots that will be used for various applications in the future.
According to Dr Noriyasu Ando, lead author of the research:
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. 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.
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