I never thought I would see Robots and Roaches working together. A man named Garnet Hertz decided to take a new approach with the problems of robotic
navigation. Its was said that robot intelligence should resemble that of a roach and other insects that react quickly and instinctively to their
A Better Robot, With Help From Roaches
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
Published: June 7, 2005
Garnet Hertz, a graduate student at the University of California, Irvine has given a roach a car.
The idea, he says, is to take a novel approach to the problem of robotic navigation. In the past, robots have not been particularly adroit; getting
from Point A to Point B can be arduous, and navigation systems cumbersome and complex.
Skip to next paragraph
How the Roach Coach WorksMr. Hertz, a Fulbright scholar from Canada, was inspired by robotics pioneers like Rodney Brooks of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, who have suggested that robot intelligence should resemble that of roaches and other insects that react quickly and
instinctively to their environment.
Mr. Hertz said the project extended work in biological mimicry, but added: "It's a little bit of a joke. It's meant to say, 'If all this
bio-inspired stuff is so great, why don't you just use the biology and cut to the chase?' "
He uses the Madagascar hissing cockroach, Gromphadorhina portentosa, which can grow as big as a mouse. In the summer of 2004, he built a three-wheeled
cart that rises about knee high. Atop the aluminum structure sits a modified computer trackball pointer, with a Ping-Pong ball in place of the usual
trackball, which is heavier.
The roach - he currently maintains a stable of four - rides on top of the trackball. As it scampers, the robot moves in the direction the roach would
travel if it were on the ground; a Velcro patch and harness keep it in place.
Mr. Hertz also made use of the fact that roaches don't like light - something easily confirmed by turning on the kitchen light at 2 a.m. In the
device, the insect is enclosed by a semicircle of lights. Individual lights turn on when the device approaches nearby objects; in theory, the roach,
in trying to avoid light, avoids the obstacles, as well.
But biology is less predictable than technology. Sometimes a roach appears perfectly happy to sit motionless on the ball for minutes at a time. Some
roaches ignore the lights. And once in a while some of them, he believes, seem to enjoy bumping the cart into walls.
Mr. Hertz orders his roaches online and feeds them organic lettuce and canned dog food.
It is not the first time that an artist has combined the biological with the mechanical. But Mr. Hertz's roaches seem to have an eerie appeal, and
they have become geek heroes. He has displayed the roachmobile at technology conferences, and his roaches have been written up in a new do-it-yourself
tech magazine, Make.
He said that Robo-roach was conceived as a project for his master's in fine arts thesis. He calls it "dialogical," a term for works created to
In an unpublished essay, Mr. Hertz said he hoped the project would inspire "discussion about the biological versus computational, fears about
technology and nature, a future filled with biohybrid robots, and a recollection of the narrative of the cyborg."
As opposed to, simply, "Eeew."
I think this will definetly help with robot technology. I just don't understand why they didn't use this idea before? I mean we use monkey's and
other animals when trying to invent or improve items.