We’re living in a brave new future here folks, and that means that moths can now drive tiny robot cars that are controlled by their own sense of smell.
Mad scientists at the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology at The University of Tokyo have built a scent-controlled car driven by a silkworm moth. As you can see in the video, the moth walks over an air-supported ball toward an attractive scent (female silkworm sex pheromones, nice). The robot-car thing tracks the ball’s movement using optical sensors, and drives in the same direction.
According to Science Magazine, the moths did a pretty good job at driving the car, even if their paths were a little odd:
Across seven trials with seven different drivers, the insects piloted the vehicle consistently toward the pheromones, nearly as well as 10 other silkworm moths who could walk freely on the ground toward the smells, the researchers reported last month in the Journal of Visualized Experiments. On average, the driving moths reached their target about 2 seconds behind the walking moths, although their paths were more circuitous.
The potential application here is for tracking odours to detect drugs or maybe dangerous chemical leaks. The moth car is certainly not anywhere close to being ready for the real world, but the researchers say it’s a start for odour-detecting robots controlled by living things with sharp senses of smell.
If you wanted to, for whatever reason, watch a nine minute video that goes really in-depth as to how this whole moth robot car stuff is set up that includes short interviews with the scientists, then read no further. [Science Magazine]