A team of scientists inspired by the animated American television series “Pinky and the Brain” is hoping to conquer the world by developing and uploading a computer program that simulates a honey bee’s brain into swarms of insectobots. Armed with nano-stingers filled with chemicals formulated to control humans, these flying robotic insects will be able to annoy their human prey as efficiently as real life bees.
Okay, I kid.
In truth, researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are developing an algorithm that mimics two key functions specific to a honey bee’s brain, vision and sense of smell. Although it’s easy to dismiss a honey bee’s intelligence, trying to simulate even the simplest cognitive processes pose significant challenges to the scientists working on this project, dubbed the “Green Brain Project.”
Driven by the need to find ways to supplement the world’s diminishing honey bee population, the “Green Brain Project” was recently awarded USD $1,614,700 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project is also supported by the NVIDIA corporation who has donated key hardware, most notably high-performance graphical processing units called GPU accelerators.
What makes this project unique is its approach to computer simulated cognition, which strives to create a working AI that more closely resembles the interactive neurological processes of real brains: “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.”
The project is also getting help from honey bee brain expert Martin Giurfa of Toulouse, whose contributions to the project the researchers hope will lead to autonomously flying robotic insects that will be among the first to perform specific cognitive tasks as efficiently as the brains of real insects, and in this case, with the aim of helping pollinate the world’s crops.