A recent article published in The Scientist about the use of robots to study animal behavior is a must-read! I had no idea this was such a seemingly common use of robots. Some researchers use them to mimic the movements of ants along paths of least resistance. While others have developed robots to study cockroaches, rodents, birds, squirrels, frogs, fish, bees, etc. Researchers study the robots in the lab or field to see how well they mimic the real thing or to understand how robotic animals and real animals interact. By studying robots, researchers often learn about the constraints an animal might experience moving around in their own environment.
Here is a quote from Dr. Jeffrey Schank at the University of California Davis from the article: “You can’t just investigate what’s going on in the brain of an organism,” he adds. “Cognition and behavior are a function of the environment, the body, and the brain.”
You can read the full article here.