Most robotic sensors are still worse than even lousy human senses. Thanks to some crazy experiments with insects, animals, and even gooey mold, that’s about to change.
Today’s robots use basic infrared sensors to navigate around obstacles (think Roomba), but tomorrow’s contraptions will have far better sensory organs, inspired by the best examples in nature. Here’s a look at the weird experiments harnessing insects, animals, and fungi that are already producing fascinating solutions for the next generation of robots to better sense, navigate, and interact with the world.
Like your average teenager, slime mold avoids light and has a remarkable ability to find the fastest route to food–all without a brain. Scientists at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have hooked yellow slime mold to a humanoid robot head and used its electrical sensory pulses (going to food or away from light) to control the robot’s facial expressions:
Not a single creature, but a conglomerate blob of identical unicellular organisms, yellow slime mold is known for its ability to solve problems with a superbasic memory akin to a memristor, New Scientist reports.
Back in February, researchers at the University of Tokyo released the results of an experiment that involved strapping a moth to a trackball of styrofoam on a wheeled robot rig. The moth was made to scuttle after female pheromones, thus “directing” the robot via trackball. The researchers also tracked the moth’s sensory antenna and movements to analyze how they so effectively sense odors.