Roaches Fooled by Robots, Follow Their Lead

Cockroaches follow 'pied piper' impostors
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2007 6:57 AM CST
This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows cockroaches and robots interacting for common shelter selection. Tiny robots programmed to act like cockroaches were able to join and participate...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Scientists have created robot cockroaches that genuine roaches accept into their communities—and even follow. The robots were covered in roach scent and programmed to like the same things roaches do—darkness and the company of other cockroaches. A Belgian theoretical biologist Jose Halloy and his colleagues found that the impostors could lead the real bugs, sometimes even to places they would normally avoid, Nature reports.

The robots' creators programmed them with an algorithm they devised from observing 100 roaches choosing places to hide. Their research into social interaction and collective decision-making among swarming creatures could someday lead to "pied piper" robots used to control problem insects—and maybe even herd cattle. Halloy's next project: robotic chickens.