Moth drives robot car

Image shows the driver moth positioned atop his trackball controller

Rather than just idly creating a vehicle in which moths can cruise for hookups, the University of Tokyo project aims to analyse the insect’s tracking behaviour. The end goal is to create a sensing robot capable of detecting and locating chemical spills and leaks.

“The simple and robust odour tracking behaviour of the silkmoth allows us to analyse its neural mechanisms from the level of a single neuron to the moth’s overall behaviour,” said Noriyasu Ando, lead researcher for the study. – Wired

A small, two-wheeled robot has been driven by a male silkmoth to track down the sex pheromone usually given off by a female mate.

The robot has been used to characterise the silkmoth’s tracking behaviours and it is hoped that these can be applied to other autonomous robots so they can track down smells, and the subsequent sources, of environmental spills and leaks when fitted with highly sensitive sensors.


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