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Researchers Constructing Simulated Bee Brains To Make Robots Fly

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File photo of a bee. (credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a bee. (credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

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SEATTLE (CBS Seattle) — Researchers are hoping to construct a simulated bee brain in order to make robots fly.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield and University of Sussex are building models of a system of a honey bee’s brain that governs its vision and sense of smell in hopes of making the world’s first autonomous flying robot.

“The development of an artificial brain is one of the greatest challenges in Artificial Intelligence,” Dr. James Marshall, lead author of the project, said in a press release. “So far, researchers have typically studied brains such as those of rats, monkeys, and humans, but actually ‘simpler’ organisms such as social insects have surprisingly advanced cognitive abilities.”

Marshall added: “Because the honey bee brain is smaller and more accessible than any vertebrate brain, we hope to eventually be able to produce an accurate and complete model that we can test within a flying robot.”

Researchers behind the “Green Brain” project want to be able to have the robot brain perform complex tasks, like finding particular odors or gases the same way a bee can detect a flower.

Scientists are using “GPU accelerators” from the NVIDIA Corporation that perform “massive calculations needed to simulate a brain using a standard desktop PC.”

“Using NVIDIA’s massively parallel GPU accelerators for brain models is an important goal of the project as they allow us to build faster models than ever before,” Dr. Thomas Nowotny, the leader of the Sussex team, said in a press release. “We expect that in many areas of science this technology will eventually replace the classic supercomputers we use today.”

The “Green Brain” project has been compared to IBM-sponsored “Blue Brain” which is hoping to develop an accurate model of the human brain.

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