Robot Driven By A Moth. Scientists One Step Closer To Lifelike Automatons

A team of scientists at the University of Tokyo have created a two-wheeled robot, which was driven by male silkmoths in pursuit of a female moth pheromone.  This has been done to study and apply the moth's tracking skills, furthering the scientific pursuit towards autonomous robots that mimic life.

The experiment (on the face of it) was pretty straightforward: female pheromones were placed into one end ot the tunnel, wafted through at the same speed her wings would beat, at which point the male moth would drive the robo-car towards it.  

The polystyrene ball acts like the controller for him to walk on and spin.  This movement was then picked up by the sensor you would usually find in an optical mouse and translated into movement.

After testing this on 14 silkmoths, all of them were able to triangulate the source of the pheromone, and pilot their vehicles towards it.  More impressively, even when scientists programmed the moth-car with a clockwise turning bias (always steering to the right), moths were still able to drive to the source with an 80% accuracy.

The team have, in theory, just created a scent-detecting robot. A trans-moth-anist cyborg, which begins the long process of replicating nature's nose for situations like sniffing out environmental spills and drugs.  

Still, can't help but fear this could be the small beginning for a greater uprising of the moth, or maybe an entirely more hilarious version of racing.

Source: Institute of Physics

Jason England