Who would have ever guessed that a moth could drive a car? Well, sorta.
According to a new study, moths possess the ability to navigate when seeking out something they like--in this case, the scent of an aroused mate.
The study took place at the University of Tokyo under Dr. Noriyasu Ando, a researcher at the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology. His lab placed 14 male silk moths within the cockpit of a robotic car that could track the moth's movements.
These "test drivers" were fixed to a large roller ball not unlike like the bottom of a computer mouse. As the moths moved around the surface, the ball's movements were tracked by laser and, in effect, steered the robotic car in the direction the moths wanted to go.
In all tests, researchers concluded that moths have a very good aptitude for driving. The researchers even introduced a turning bias, requiring a stronger motivation to go in the correct direction, yet the moths still reached the target.
The reason for the research has to do with learning more about a moth's antennae and sensory-motor system. Researchers are hoping that the knowledge could be of value for improving the performance of autonomous robots.
"Most chemical sensors, such as semiconductor sensors, have a slow recovery time and are not able to detect the temporal dynamics of odors as insects do," says Ando. "Our results will be an important indication for the selection of sensors and models when we apply the insect sensory-motor system to artificial systems."
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