Researchers confined the real and faux cockroaches to a circular arena with two shelters, each large enough to house the entire group. The robots were programmed to behave in ways that contrasted with the behavior of normal roaches so that researchers could see if the vermin would follow the robots' lead. When the ersatz insects chose shelters with more light, more than half of the cockroaches abandoned their instincts and joined the robots there.
Halloy says researchers now plan to study the effect of artificial intelligence on a vertebrate animal, in this case chicks. To do this, he says, E.P.F.L. engineers will develop larger chicklike robots that can hear, interpret and respond to real chicks' verbal cues. The robot chicks (the first prototype is due in March) must also be accepted by their peers. One way to do this, Halloy says, is to remove newborn chicks from their mothers within 12 hours of hatching and place them with a robotic surrogate mother and artificially intelligent siblings. No word yet on how closely these robo-chick might resemble the real thing.