Hive Mind: Transferring Bee Brains Into Robots
Robots can do a lot of things, but so far they still can’t “think” without a team of engineers doing some complex programming on the back end. But what if you were able to model that programming on an existing system — say, the brain of a living insect — and then upload all of those cognitive functions into a robot? Could the robot perform complex tasks intuitively without any programming?
That’s the question some scientists in England are trying to answer by using supercomputing technology to reverse engineer the brains of honey bees. Engineers at the University of Sheffield and the University of Sussex hope to scan the brains of bees and upload the data into flying robots, theoretically creating robots that can act instinctively. By implanting models based on the senses of smell and sight from honey bees into the robots, the devices could act autonomously.
Project “Green Brain” is funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, along with IBM and NVIDIA. The research is modeled on IBM’s “Blue Brain” initiative, which uses supercomputers to model brain function. The team hopes to have a robotic bee completed in 2015.
“The development of an artificial brain is one of the greatest challenges in Artificial Intelligence. So far, researchers have typically studied brains such as those of rats, monkeys, and humans, but actually ‘simpler’ organisms such as social insects have surprisingly advanced cognitive abilities.” —Dr. James Marshall, lead researcher, University of Sheffield
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts about insect-inspired robots (here and here), one of the potential applications would be search-and-rescue operations, along with detecting chemical leaks and pollinating plants (really).
The key to this, of course, is creating a way to scan and upload brain functions. This type of computer modeling could potentially be used in other types of brain modeling and neuroscience applications as well. Let’s just hope they don’t accidentally scan the brains of any killer bees:
Source: University of Sheffield