Motor moth: Scientists build insect-driven robot
Moths don't have to pass driver's license tests to take the wheel of a robotic vehicle designed by researchers to gather data on moth-scent-tracking activities.
Moths, despite munching on wool sweaters, are pretty innocuous for the most part. Scientists from the University of Tokyo decided to up the ante and put some moths in command of their very own robot vehicle.
The moths were able to steer by standing on a rotating ball, which, as you'll note from the video below, appears to move quite easily. Moving the ball directed the small two-wheeled robotic vehicle, which looks like a a collection of leftover plastic parts and electronics bits. They were placed in a small arena with the pheromone scent on the other end and let loose to track down its location.
While building two-wheeled robots for moths sounds like a fun hobby, the researchers had a serious purpose for the project. They gathered data on the silkmoth's tracking behaviors as they drove toward the smell of the pheromone.
The idea is to apply that tracking information to autonomous robots equipped with sensors used to locate smells and sources of environmental spills and leaks. That's a worthwhile goal, but it dashes my dream of a NASCAR-like moth racing league.