These AI-Powered Robot Bees Could Save Insects from Extinction

May 23, 2018 - 2 minutes read

AI app developersResearchers from London, Edinburgh, and Italy are working together to design and develop AI robot bees that could help our environment and several endangered species of bees.

The project, dubbed FOCAS (for Fundamentals of Collective Adaptive Systems), has spanned five years of research. The scientists hope to study how social animals communicate with the swarms of robot bees.

Bots That Blend In

Both robotic bees and zebrafish have been in testing; research shows that their live counterparts are fooled into thinking the bots are real animals. The robots are continuously recording data in real-time about how the wild animals operate and socialize; they then steer the wild organisms towards better adaptation and survival.

The field of study, aptly named “swarm robotics” is great for robotics and AI researchers around the world; the robots can act, move, and learn as a colony and unit, which makes them more realistic to actual animals. AI is used to help the robots evolve and learn on the spot. Researchers even included a feature where two different swarms can combine into one and create a hive-mind with a cohesive presence.

Taking Inspiration from Nature

With bees becoming an increasing worry for scientists and farmers, these robots could revamp the way livestock and agriculture are currently managed. In fact, Walmart heavily invested in and patented technology similar to the robo-bees earlier in 2018; basically, robotic pollinators can be ready to deploy if bees ever become extinct. The mini AI robot bees could explain the environmental factors affecting bee populations and whether there is a solution that can reverse the current decline.

NYU researchers similarly released findings late last year of robot zebrafish that can “see” and mimic the wild fish. Previously, the fish could only travel in one direction, but NYU researchers managed to expand that capability for the fish to travel in all three dimensions, which is much more convincing for the real zebrafish.

All of these developments wouldn’t be the first time that innovators borrowed an idea from biology, but they could culminate in the preservation of numerous endangered species on the brink of extinction.

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