Friday, 6 June 2008

Insect Braitenberg Vehicle

A few days ago I observed an insect behaving like a simple mobile robot (Braitenberg vehicle) with a line-avoiding algorithm. I ran and got my camera and the video below is the result.

Obviously Braitenberg designed his thought-experiment vehicles with insect behaviors in mind, a light stimulus to the right eye drives the left locomotor (wing / set of legs) to result in a moth that is attracted to light (or a 'photovore' in the case of the robotic vehicles).

By simple modification of this algorithm you can produce a creature that prefers darkness and can be made to follow a dark line on a light background (the dark line reflects less light into its sensors).

This insect appeared to be avoiding dark lines which makes sense as insects like light. But do insects really apply these rules to their perception of the environment on such a local level? The geek in me cries out for formalised experiments!

Unfortunately the best example (where it stayed in a circle for around 20 seconds) isn't on film (as it was what inspired me to get the camera).

It has crossed my mind that perhaps it doesn't like wet ink... some of the occasions where the insect stays in a circle for a while might disprove this but then it walks over some of the older lines quite happily.

I'd be very interested to hear people's opinions about this video...


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Laurence K said...

There might be another reason for this - either the insect doesn't like wet ink, as you mention (it doesn't like to walk on wet/sticky surfaces) or it doesn't like the volatile components that evaporate off the ink for a short time after the line is drawn. Some inks do have a perceptible smell. Maybe you could try a few inks (if you get the opportunity again!) with a variety of volatile components in them.

I like the bird drawing, by the way :)