A few years back, when my writing partner and I were working on our book, we had a series of discussions with programmers about artificial intelligence in non-player characters. That led us out to MIT, where we spent a day getting demonstrations on how researchers were using animal simulations to help “train” the computer to think.
Over the next few years, I had the chance to edit a series of stories on how researchers were going one step further: using biology to inform how robots can move, including this story which we published in Technology Review last week.
So, I was particularly delighted to read a story in yesterday’s New York Times (with kudos to Brittany Sauser for sending this along).
Roaches Aid in Robotic Innovations
In an article from the New York Times, Garnet Hertz, a graduate student at the University of California has found a simple solution to robotic navigation by creating Robo-Roach.
The Madagascar hissing cockroach, which can grow as big as a mouse, rolls around in Hertz’ three-wheeled cart that rises about knee high, and steers the contraption by running on a modified trackball (really).
Hertz’ motivation came from other robotic pioneers – such as MIT’s Rodney Brooks – who have suggested that robot intelligence should be similar to that of roaches and other insects that react quickly to their environment.