An insect has successfully driven a small two-wheeled robot toward the sex pheromone emitted by a potential mate.
The robot is used to track the behavior of the male silkmoth while tracking the down a female. According to Science Daily, this particular insect was chosen due to the “dance” it does whenever it picks up the female scent.
Once the male gets wind of the pheromone, it then begins an orchestrated walking pattern. Researchers hope the information gleaned from this project will help teach autonomous robots how to track down spills and leaks in the environment.
Research author Dr Noriyasu Ando said:
“The simple and robust odor tracking behavior of the silkmoth allows us to analyse 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.”
LiveScience explains that the silkmoth was able to control the robot by using a trackball not unlike the ones found on certain computers. Once the pheromone was introduced, the insect then piloted the tiny machine into a wind tunnel is search of his mate.
During each test, the silkmoth was able to steer the small machine towards the sex pheromone. The insect was even able to locate the smell when it was “blindfolded” by researchers. Scientists hope to apply what they’ve learned toward the creation of biologically-inspired robots.
Case Western Reserve University Mark Willis biologist explained that current technology doesn’t come close to detecting odors the way insects can. In an effort to make significant improvements, researchers will use data from this project to make robots more sensitive to certain smells and odors.
Images of the insect driving a robot can be found at Technology Review.
[Image by ScienceImage]