New project aims to upload a honey bee’s brain into a flying insectobot by 2015
2012 10 04

By George Dvorsky | io9.com



Every once in a while, there’s news which reminds us that we’re living in the age of accelerating change. This is one of those times: A new project has been announced in which scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are hoping to create the first accurate computer simulation of a honey bee brain — and then upload it into an autonomous flying robot.

This is obviously a huge win for science — but it could also save the world. The researchers hope a robotic insect could supplement or replace the shrinking population of honey bees that pollinate essential plant life.

Powerful and affordable

Now, while this might sound like some kind of outlandish futurist joke, there are some serious players — and money — involved. Called the "Green Brain Project," it was recently given £1 million (USD $1,614,700) by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as well as hardware donations from the NVIDIA corporation.

Specifically, NVIDIA will provide them with high-performance graphical processing units called GPU accelerators. This will allow the researchers to simulate aspects of a honey bee’s brain by using massively paralleled desktop PCs. While this will certainly work to promote the NVIDIA brand, it will also allow the researchers to conduct their project inexpensively (supercomputer clusters aren’t cheap).

And indeed, the researchers are going to need all the computational power they can get; it may appear that insects have simple minds — but their brains can be extremely complex.

Creating autonomy

Now, it should be noted that the researchers aren’t trying to emulate a complete honey bee brain, but rather two specific and complex functions within it, namely vision and sense of smell. Once complete, they will upload those models into a robotic honey bee so that it can act autonomously.

"This is an important further advance over current work on brain models because it is becoming more and more clear that an essential aspect of brain function is that the brain is not acting in isolation but in constant interaction with the body and the environment," they note in their proposal, "This concept of ’embodiment’ and its consequences for cognition are important insights of modern cognitive science and will become equally important for modern neuroscience."

By isolating and modeling these particular functions, the researchers hope to provide their flying robot with the cognitive power required to perform basic tasks — and without a set of pre-programmed instructions.

[...]

Read the full article at: io9.com








Related Articles
Will philosophy unlock the puzzle that is artificial intelligence?
Can We Have Brain-to-Brain Communication?
Blue Brain Project accurately predicts connections between neurons
How Long Can a Brain Live in a Dish?
Russian research project offers ’immortality’ to billionaires - by transplanting their brains into robot bodies
How will we build an artificial human brain?
Point, CounterPoint: Why You Should Upload Your Mind
Can we Upload our Consciousness to a Computer?
Mind Uploading and Mind Children


Latest News from our Front Page

Extremists to have Facebook and Twitter vetted by anti-terror police
2014 09 30
Theresa May to announce new Extremist Disruption Orders to strengthen counter-terrorism if the Tories win the next general election Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives. They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy”, ...
Scottish Independence: Protesters demand revote
2014 09 30
Pro-independence campaigners gathered outside the Scottish Parliament for the second day in a row, this time to demand a revote of the September 18 referendum. While yesterday’s “Rally For A Revote” saw the return of Saltires and Yes banners to Holyrood, it did not match the turnout for the “Voice Of The People” rally held on Saturday, when up 3000 people ...
Water rationing hits California: limit of 50 gallons per person per day or face fines of $500
2014 09 29
Millions of Californians are about to be hit with strict water rationing -- daily "allocation" numbers that represent the maximum amount of water you’re allowed to use for any purpose. Households that exceed the allocation limit will face stiff fines of hundreds of dollars per violation. "In July, the State Water Resources Control Board passed stage one emergency regulations, giving powers ...
Much of Earth’s Water is Older than the Sun
2014 09 29
Much of the water on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system likely predates the birth of the sun, a new study reports. The finding suggests that water is commonly incorporated into newly forming planets throughout the Milky Way galaxy and beyond, researchers said — good news for anyone hoping that Earth isn’t the only world to host life. “The implications of ...
Did the Vikings Get a Bum Rap?
2014 09 29
A Yale historian wants us to rethink the terrible tales about the Norse. This illustration shows the stereotype of Viking marauders wreaking mayhem, even on clergy. The scene depicts the monastery at Clonmacnoise, Ireland. The Vikings gave no quarter when they stormed the city of Nantes, in what is now western France, in June 843—not even to the monks barricaded in the ...
More News »