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Interactions between cockroaches and robots

In its 16th November issue, Science publishes the main results of the European project « Leurre » (financed by the Future and Emerging Technologies programme) entitled « Social integration of robots into groups of cockroaches to control self-organized choices »

Coordinated by the Service d’écologie sociale of the Université libre de Bruxelles in the frame of the European project « Leurre », the research has experimentally demonstrated the possibility to realize mixed groups of cockroaches and robots making the choice of shared shelter.

The researchers have observed collective behaviours based on self-organization in different group-living animals, from insects to vertebrates. Those findings in biology have stimulated engineers to study the possibility to use these models to elaborate multirobots systems based on self-organization.

The study presented in Science (11/16/07) combines those two aspects : it shows that individuals, natural or artificial, are all perceived as equivalent. The collective decisions emerges from nonlinear feedbacks based on local interactions. Even when in the minority, robots are able to modulate the collective behaviour of the mixed groups and to produce shelter choices non-observed in their absence.

Led by the ULB (Service de écologie sociale), the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and biologists from the CNRS at the Université de Rennes 1, the research demonstrates for the first time the possibility to use autonomous artificial agents to study and control self-organized social behaviour in group-living animals.

Nancy Dath | alfa
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