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Robots Infiltrate Insect World to Learn Their Ways

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Actual cockroaches.

A team of researchers has developed a way to generate a robot cockroach's behavior automatically, rather than requiring programming by hand.

Credit: Plain Picture

Paris Diderot University researchers, led by researcher Jose Halloy, have developed a way to generate a robot cockroach's behavior automatically using a combination of descriptions of cockroach habits, combining models of individual movements with group activity. The researchers then used evolutionary algorithms to optimize the models.

The research is based on previous work in which Halloy's team programmed robot cockroaches mostly by hand, but this method was difficult and cannot easily be adapted for use with other types of animals.

The researchers tested the generated behaviors in a computer simulation in which a mixed group of 45 cockroaches and five robots had to cooperate to make a collective choice between two shelters. Generating insect-mimicking behavior automatically was a lot quicker than doing it by hand, and it led to more lifelike behavior.

The researchers think the method could be used to generate behaviors for mimics of other social species, such as honeybees, fruit flies, birds, and fish.

Group-level behavior matters more than individual actions, and the researchers found the movement and paths followed by the robots did not need to match those of the real cockroaches for them to fit in.

From New Scientist
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