Fruit Flies Control Lego Robot with Virtual Reality: Yes, Really

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Swiss researchers, Chauncey Graetzel and his team at Zurich’s Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems have built a virtual reality rig that allows fruit flies to control robots.

By strapping a fruit fly into a machine that flashes it with lights and tricks the fly into thinking said lights are obstacles, scientists are able to control which direction the fly flies. Along with another tracking-style system in place that can capture and translate wing movement, the Zurich team can then translate the flies movements into commands for piloting a robot, which they’ve successfully tested on a Lego Mindstorm NXT robot.

Though it seems like a roundabout way to get a robot to move, Graetzel assures, “Our goal was not to replace human drivers with flies,” and that the team was focused on studying low-level flight control in insects in order to build more advanced robots in the future.

(Gamma Squad via IEEE Spectrum)


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