We’ve heard of robots communicating with each other wirelessly to collaborate on tasks. However, sometimes, such networks are not an option. Instead, a new bee-inspired technique helps bots “dance”.
Since honey bees have no spoken language, they often communicate with each other by swaying their bodies.
Called the “wobble dance,” this type of movement can be used by a foraging bee to tell other bees the location of a food source. The direction of the movements corresponds to the direction of the food relative to the hive and the sun, while the duration of the dance represents the distance of the food from the hive.
Inspired by this behavior, an international team of researchers set out to see if a similar system could be used by robots. and human in locations such as disaster sites where wireless networks are not available.
In the proof-of-concept system the scientists have created, a person begins by making arm gestures with a Turtlebot “messenger robot” equipped with a camera. Using skeleton tracking algorithms, the bot can interpret coded gestures, relaying the location of a package in a room. The wheeled messaging bot then switches to a “package handling robot” and moves around to track a sample on the floor in front of it.
As the robot processes the watch package with its own depth sensing camera, it determines the direction in which the package is placed based on the direction of the sample and it determines the distance it will have to travel based on the time to model tracking. It then moves in the specified direction for the specified amount of time, then uses its object recognition system to detect the packet when it reaches its destination.
In the tests performed so far, both robots correctly interpreted (and acted upon) swaying gestures and dances about 93% of the time.
The study was led by Professor Abhra Roy Chowdhury of the Indian Institute of Science and graduate student Kaustubh Joshi of the University of Maryland. It is described in an article that was recently published in the journal Borders in Robotics and AI.