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Robotic Dog Spots Invasive Fire Ant Nests Better Than Humans

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The robotic dog identifying a nest of fire ants.

The robotic dog outperformed people in finding hidden fire ant nests within 300-square-meter nursery garden areas.

Credit: Xin Su/Lanzhou University

Scientists in China and Brazil are testing robotic dogs and artificial intelligence (AI) to detect invasive fire ant nests.

The researchers taught an open source AI to visually differentiate fire ant nests from those of other ant species, then ran the program on a robotic dog equipped with specialized computer hardware.

The robot outperformed humans in identifying hidden fire ant nests within a 300-square-meter (3,229-square-foot) nursery garden, detecting three times as many nests with greater accuracy in less than 10 minutes.

Zheng Yan at China's Lanzhou University said the robot verified the fire ant nests based on the insects' numbers and aggressive behavior, since the AI cannot tell different ant species apart.

Carnegie Mellon University's Deepak Pathak said the achievement demonstrates the applicability of existing computer vision and robotics technologies to biological safety and biodiversity conservation.

From New Scientist
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