New discovery about dung beetles has implications for AI, robotics
It turns out that dung beetles are even more amazing than we've always known they are with their ability to move backwards using directional sensors to tune into visual stimuli.
A collaborative project by researchers at Lund University in Sweden and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has found that aside from picking up visual cues from their environment, the beetles also have a built-in _mechanical _sensory system.
Wits professor of Entomology, Marcus Byrne explains:
The way we've looked at it in the past is using celestial clues like the sun and the moon and the stars and polarised light in the sky invisible to the human eye. That's what we thought they had in their armoury up to now.Marcus Byrne, Professor of Entomology - Wits University
But what happens when the sun is overhead at noon and useless as a compass?
The researchers found that the beetles have a fallback system:
We found that in these situations the species we looked at were able to switch to a mechanical cue and they sense that through their antennas - what they sensed was the wind.Marcus Byrne, Professor of Entomology - Wits University
We do know that lots of flying insects also use wind as a compass.Marcus Byrne, Professor of Entomology - Wits University
Professor Byrne says this example of navigational precision tools could be applied in artificial intelligence and robotics.
It (the dung beetle) doesn't need a GPS, it doesn't need a satellite, it can just use natural signals in the environment... It's literally the simplest piece of information that you can teach a robot to respond to and then you can get that robot to orientate itself through that environment.Marcus Byrne, Professor of Entomology - Wits University
The fact that the creature can switch between its sources of input within a matter of seconds is another valuable function which could impact technology.
Listen to the complete conversation here:
Covid-19 positive ER doctor Adam Barnes tells CapeTalk's John Maytham about some of the challenges on the coronavirus frontline.Read More
DA leadership hopeful Mbali Ntuli speaks to CapeTalk's Lester Kiewit about her campaign to secure the party's top position.Read More
The search continues for a missing trail runner who disappeared after going for a run along Table Mountain on Monday afternoon.Read More
Doctors are looking for 600 recovered Covid-19 patients to take part in a convalescent blood plasma trial.Read More
Transport MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela has met with the leadership of rival taxi associations to address the deadly taxi shootings in the province.Read More
With the ECD sector now allowed to reopen, how will preschools enforce Covid-19 safety measures among the children in their care?Read More
Restauranteur Costa Carastavrakis shares his incredible story of addiction recovery with CapeTalk's Zain Johnson.Read More
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched a nation-wide court watching briefs unit as a means to put farm attackers behind bars.Read More
From 1 August FNB customers will no longer receive their bank statements via email. Refilwe Moloto finds out why...Read More
While health authorities in the province have been focused on the Covid-19 response, there's been a steep decline in the treatment of other health conditions.Read More