Robots that influence cockroach behavior

Researchers from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles attached filter paper infused with cockroach pheromones to the robots, which did not physically resemble the roaches, to achieve the social absorption.

The recent development saw the construction of cockroach-shaped robots integrated into roach communities before helping in the advanced process of shelter selection.

Robots can lead a flock of roaches out of a secure location and into the open, where they could technically be exterminated more easily.

Jose Halloy, a biology researcher at the Free University of Brussels, was lead author on a paper published today in Science, wherein he details his robotic roach exploits.

Halloy and his team corralled roaches in a designated area covered by two discs, a dark one and a lighter one. Communists by nature, roaches tend to cluster together, motivated by group instinct. Since they all dig the dark, they did as expected and congregated on that side of the arena. Even so, when robotic roaches were sent in to mingle, and then started easing their way over to the light side, the real roaches followed about 60% of the time, overriding their own survival instincts to hang with the cool kids.

Scientists hope that this research and other studies with animal-like robots will help us understand how animals behave and make decisions in groups.