Wednesday 17 November 2004

The Judas Roach

From The Australian :
It behaves like a cockroach. It smells like a cockroach. It is accepted by other cockroaches.

But it is not a cockroach. It is a robot and scientists say its invention is a breakthrough in mankind's struggle to control the animal kingdom.

The robot, InsBot, developed by researchers in France, Belgium and Switzerland, is capable of infiltrating a group of cockroaches, influencing them and altering their behaviour.

Within a decade, its inventors believe, it will be leading the unwanted pests out of dark kitchen corners, to where they can be eliminated.

But this is only the first of the applications for a pioneering program that has scientists dreaming out loud.

They say they will soon be using robots to stop sheep jumping off cliffs and to encourage chickens to take exercise.
The initial task, carried out by the Centre for Research on the Cognition of Animals in Toulouse, France, was to analyse cockroach behaviour. A student spent three years filming the insects and making a computer program that reproduced their movements. The study showed that cockroaches, like ants, are egalitarian creatures, without a group leader. They congregate as a result of a "collective intelligence" that depends upon interaction within the group.
A lot like the Internet really. Now there's a scary thought...
"Cockroaches like contact with each other. When they meet, they stay still. They are happy to be with a friend for a few moments. The more friends around them, the longer they stay," said project co-ordinator Jean-Louis Deneubourg.
Dammit, I'm starting to like them. Friendly, sociable little critters.

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