Bees Key To Cooperative Robots

The 1995 novel The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson, contains a variety of references to tiny nanobots (very small robots) that cooperate on various tasks. They range from mites, tiny cleaning machines, to swarms of airborne nanomachines that work together to form a dog pod grid, a defensive formation to protect suburban enclaves.

How can robots learn cooperative behavior, and learn to work with each other (and with crowds of humans)?

bees help computer scientists

A new computer vision system that provides automated analysis of the movements of honeybees may provide the answer. Tucker Balch, the team leader for the Georgia Institute Biotracking Project, believes that the study of behavior that involves the interaction of many simple individuals - like bees - may tell us how to program robots that act in groups. He says "We believe the language of behavior is common between robots and animals... we could videotape ants for a long period of time, learn their 'program' and run it on a robot."

Determining the most efficient Internet network route for data packets, a problem that has proven difficult for human mathematicians, may be easier for insects. A routing algorithm derived by biologists working with insects has proven to be the best solution we have so far.

See Busy Bees: Computer Vision System Automates Analysis of Bee Activity for Insight into Biologically Inspired Robot Design at the Georgia Research Tech News website. Or, learn more about swarm engineering.

To find out more about Neal Stephenson's novel, that elaborates the idea of nanotechnology robots moving with insect-like patterns in the real world, read Science Fiction Inventions from The Diamond Age.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/12/2003)

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