Governing the swarm

Martin Stefanec, Martina Szopek, Rob Mills, Thomas Schmickl
IEEE Symposium on Artificial Life (2017)


Bio-hybrid  systems  in  which  living  organisms interact  and  self-organize  with  multi-robot  systems  are  a  novel approach in engineering and biology. We show here how a group of honeybees and robots can interact in collective decision making and  how computer code that adds feedback loops to the system may  affect  the  global  system  properties.  This  study  contains  a series of experiments with living honeybees and robots as well as a cellular-automaton inspired model that is simple, yet still in good agreement with the empirical findings presented here. Using this model, we explore the most likely candidates for local parameters in  the  proximate  mechanisms  of  the  animals,  thus  further  the understanding of this natural system in a context that is relevant for such bio-hybrid manifestations. We identify positive feedback based  on  bee-to-bee  collision  and  temperature  as  an  important factor   governing   collective   decision   making   and   found   the stopping   probability   after   close-encounters   among   bees  as   a crucial local parameter. This study is the first step towards using computer and robotic technology to monitor and control complex animal societies like honeybees.


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