Bust A Move! A German Robot Dances To Communicate With Honey Bees

DigitalTrends    By Luke Dormehl    April 8, 2018

Humans use tools like Google Maps to tell us the location of our nearest restaurant or supermarket, and very soon foraging bees might get a similarly high-tech helping hand. Researchers at Germany’s Free University of Berlin have developed the RoboBee robot, which shows the best foraging locations by mimicking a dance that bees employ to relay this information to one another.

“Honeybees communicate newly found food locations to nestmates via the bee ‘waggle dance,’ a series of motion patterns they perform in the darkness of the hive,” Tim Landgraf, a professor in the Dahlem Center for Machine Learning and Robotics, told Digital Trends. “Interested bees somehow decode the dance and know how to reach the new food place. To understand this process better we have built a robot that imitates the bee dance in its various components. Essentially, the robot is a bee-sized piece of soft sponge on a stick, moved by a plotter-like positioning system. It can perform the typical waggle dance motion, beat its wings and provide drops of food samples to interested bees.”

Landgraf notes that the idea of using a robot to communicate with bees had been discussed for decades. However, the Berlin-based researchers were the first to show that bees can successfully decode the robot’s message. Not all of the bees were interested in the robot, though. “This may be due to the robot being slightly off in terms of the way it reproduces dance-related cues, or it may produce unwanted stimuli that disturb the bees,” he continued. “One cause may also that our understanding of the bee dance is incomplete. Even natural dances have only a few followers.”

The researchers next plan to use the findings in another project called BeesBook, in which bees are tracked over the course of their entire lifespan. The hope is that this will allow greater understanding of bee behavior and enable the robot to be improved accordingly.

“Right now I am not thinking about commercializing,” Landgraf said. “Beekeepers don’t need robots to tell bees to pollinate their apple trees; they just put their hives on the plantation. However, the general idea of interfacing with living systems is worth investigating deeper. With or without robots, technology may help understand animal needs better, assess health status in an automatized fashion, enrich environments, and so on.”

https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/robot-dances-honeybees-robobee/?platform=hootsuite

This Giant US Retailer Has Hinted That It's Building Crop-Pollinating Robot Bees

Business Insider/Australia      By Leanna Garfield    March 15, 2018

  • Walmart has filed a patent for a robot bee that could potentially pollinate crops like real bees.
  • The patent could signal that Walmart is looking to have more control over its food supply chain.
  • Other organisations are also developing pollination drones to help offset the decline of bee populations.

Polynoid/Greenpeace/Vimeo A rendering of a robot bee, as seen in a short film by Polynoid.Like an episode out of “Black Mirror,” Walmart has filed a patent for autonomous robotic bees, technically called pollination drones, that could potentially pollinate crops just like real bees.

The drones would carry pollen from one plant to another, using sensors and cameras to detect the locations of the crops.

First spotted by CB Insights, the robot bee patent appears along five other patents for farming drones, including one that would identify pests and another that would monitor crop health. Walmart did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

While Walmart’s exact goal for these patents is unclear, they may signal that the company hopes to venture into agriculture and gain more control over its food supply chain.

This would make sense, considering Walmart has recently focused on improving its grocery delivery business.

On Wednesday, the retailer announced that it will expand its grocery delivery this year to over 800 stores that reach 40% of US households. In some locations, the service will offer same-day delivery in as little as three hours. In January, Walmart also filed a patent for an online grocery shopping service that would allow shoppers to accept or reject produce picked by Walmart employees.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Harvard University’s RoboBee.Walmart is not the first organisation to create a robot bee. In recent years, scientists have searched for solutions to the decline of honeybees, which pollinate nearly one-third of the food we eat and are dying at unprecedented rates largely because of a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.(In 2017, however, these deaths declined from the year prior.)

Harvard University researchersintroduced the first RoboBees in 2013. At the time, the bee-size robots could only fly and hover midair when tethered to a power source, but they have advanced since then. Today, the RoboBees can also stick to surfaces, swim underwater, and dive in and out of water.

The researchers believe these RoboBees could soon artificially pollinate fields of crops – a development that would help offset the yearly bee losses over the past two decades. Though Harvard’s bees can do several tricks, they still can’t be remotely controlled. The robotic bees described in Walmart’s patent, however, would have this capability, along with the ability to automatically detect pollen. That would mean that the bees could theoretically work on a farm one day, rather than just in a lab.

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/walmart-robot-bees-farming-patent-2018-3

GREENPEACE - NEW BEES from Polynoid on Vimeo.