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.”


Honey Bee Brain Flies a Drone

IFLScience   By Janet Fang   April 20, 2015

Photo Credit: The Green Brain ProjectBy digitally reconstructing the complete brain of the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, researchers with the Green Brain Project hope to one day create an autonomous flying robot that thinks, senses, and acts like the sophisticated pollinator.

"Bees and all other insects are miracles of engineering which we are nowhere near equaling," University of Sheffield’s James Marshall tells BBC. "If we could even recreate a fraction of their abilities in a robot system then we would have made a tremendous advance." The honeybee has surprisingly advanced cognitive behaviors, despite how simple and small their brains are compared to that of vertebrates. They can do so much with so little.

So far, the team—comprised of researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex—have recreated the parts of the bee’s brain that allows them to see and smell. Not only will this help us better understand both bee brains and human brains alike, but the team have also managed to upload their computer simulation (complete with thousands of virtual neurons) to an unmanned aerial vehicle. 

To see if their bee brain simulation can actually pilot an aircraft, they plugged their simulation into a quadcopter drone and allowed it to fly down a corridor. It ended up doing so without even running into anything, Phys.org explains, and another time, it was able recognize the checkerboard pattern on the wall and use it to help navigate. This video from last November is the first demo of the quadcopter using its bee vision to navigate: 

Several teams around the world are working on bee-inspired robots. Harvard researchers, for example, have a designed a RoboBee that might help pollinate fields of crops—something that might become necessary if populations of honeybees continue to dwindle. One day, perhaps different teams could come together, placing simulated bee brains inside of bee bots. 

With UAVs expected to perform various dangerous missions—ranging from search-and-rescue to monitoring nuclear power plants to wildfire surveillance—it’s going to be increasingly important to control them effectively. 

Read at: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/workings-honeybee-brains-inspire-drones