Team Creates Buzz with Robot Modeled after Bees

By: | February 26th, 2014

Scientists have given a little tank robot an artificial mini brain and programmed it to think like a honey bee. Researchers from Freie Universität, Berlin have developed this robot to navigate its surroundings and learn and react from them just like a bee searching for pollen.

Honeybee nervous system used as a model for robot brain

The scientists used a computer program that simulated the relatively simple nervous system of the honeybee. They installed a camera on a small robot that looked more like a tank than a bee and connected it to a computer.  This camera feeds visual data to the bee brain and projects visual information.

How did they do it?

The robot was placed in the center of a small arena,where both red and blue cylinders were also placed. When the robot’s camera saw the red cylinders, it flashed a light, which in turn activated a virtual reward sensor nerve cell in the artificial network. The reward now led to specific changes in those parts of the network, which exercised control over the robot wheels.

As a result, when the camera saw the red color, the robot automatically started moving towards it. On the other hand, blue cylinders made it move away from the color.

The robot learned to distinguish colored objects and to approach certain colored objects and to avoid others, just like honeybees learn to associate certain flower colors with tasty nectar.

The researchers are now planning to expand the artificial sensorimotor network so that the robot can respond to a wider variety of visual stimuli, with a wider range of behaviors.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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