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Robots that can be accepted by animals as conspecifics are great tools for behavioral biology. Indeed, every element of robotic behavior can be programmed and controlled thus we can test response of animals to various signals emitted by robots. This gives an opportunity to address more interesting question on the individual and collective level than the traditional study of behavior by observation. Our research group participated in several research projects on animal-robot interaction.
Before joining the Laboratory of Robotic Systems Dr. Mondada was a local EPFL coordinator of the FET project Leurre within the Autonomous System Laboratory. The Leurre project (September 1, 2002 to August 31, 2005) was dealing with animal-machine interaction between robots and cockroaches. In this pioneering example of mixed society of cockroaches and robots, the robots were accepted as members of the animal society, could participate to the social decisions and could influence the social decisions and thus the animal behavior. For more details see the Leurre project website.
Mixed society of robots and vertebrates
In this Swiss National Science Foundation funded project the goal was to study group behavior of young chicks of the domestic chicken by using autonomous mobile robot. The interaction between the robot and animals was based on the visual feedback. This project demonstrated the example of a mixed group of vertebrates and autonomous robots interacting with each other and where animals accept robots as members of the group.
The Mobots group is part of the European FP7 project ASSISIbf (Animal and robot Societies Self-organise and Integrate by Social Interaction with bees and fish) which is the largest European project of the EU call FOCAS (Fundamentals of Collective Adaptive Systems) and received 6 millions of Euro for 5 years. ASSISIbf has started on February 2013. The main goal of ASSISIbf is to establish a robotic society that is able to develop communication channels with animal societies (in this case honeybees and fish shoals) on its own. The goal of the Mobots team is to design the robot and software infrastructure to manage mixed groups of zebrafish and robots. For more details see the ASSISIbf project website.
The aim of this project funded by a MSCA IF grant is to interface a swarm of animals with a distributed artificial system. Our objective is to demonstrate that such mixed society can benefit from advantages of both artificial and natural systems and outperform their constituents. Here, the goal of the mixed group is to explore the environment searching for resources and to exploit them as soon as discovered. For this purpose, we integrate a model organism of biological societies, the ants, with an artificial system based on mobile robots and static sensors. The system will benefit from the efficient exploration pattern of the insect swarm to discover and evaluate potential resources and the ability of the robots to rapidly convey these resources to the nest.