Moth pilots robot to a (faux) booty call

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2013-02-07

The white ball the moth is standing on acts as a trackball, and its input is used to direct the robot.
From Ando, et. al.

It could be a scene from a B-rated horror flick or a ridiculous kids' comedy: a bug-eyed moth deftly pilots a robotic vehicle, zig-zagging back and forth to seek out its target, a sweet-smelling lady moth. But this isn’t fiction; this bizarre scene actually happened in the laboratory of three Japanese researchers from the University of Tokyo. Their research is published in this week's issue of Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

The goal wasn’t entertainment, although it was a likely byproduct. Instead, the researchers are interested in biologically-inspired robots that can recognize and seek out odors, such as a gas leak or a chemical spill.

For this type of sensory processing, nature is an excellent place to turn for inspiration, since tracking down odors is a key aspect of survival for many species. Plants and animals have evolved in response to all sorts of ecological problems, and adaptations found in the natural world have been very helpful in advancing technology of all kinds (see here and here for previous Ars coverage of biologically-inspired technology).

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