If you're reading stuff on DZone then you must be interested in computer algorithms. It just follows. And some of you must have wondered with all the talk about self driving cars "Where do those algorithms come from?" And (bear with me here) while driving with our significant other many of us have heard something like "Watch the road honey!" Well who knew how prescient that could be.
Recently the National Science Foundation has granted $300,000 to a group to study the ways that bumblebees get around. This study of "bumblebee-based connected vehicles" will be done under the auspices of Worchester Polytechnic Institute. And the idea is not as silly as it might at first sound. Remember this research is "bumblebee based" and not honeybee based or even ant colony based. It turns out that honey bees and ants operate under a sort of "hive mind" and their activities are all about hive altruism. But bumblebees are different. It turns out that bumblebees are perfectly willing to share information about food with other bumblebees, they are friendly and interact non-competitively with each other. But they all use that information as individuals and as individuals they work toward their own individual goals. The idea is that it is much like cars on the road must coordinate safely so that everyone may accomplish their own individual journeys.
Alexander Wyglinski, PhD, the lead researcher said “Evolution has primed these types of insects to survive in real world”. The team will study the bumblebees in a controlled lab environment and model the communications and resulting navigation as a multi-body networking algorithm.
Those of us who have designed algorithms for complex multicomponent systems know that the task can be quite daunting. And usually the final result ends up being logically brittle at the edges. Our assumptions are a bit off, there are scenarios we didn't even think of, etc. On the other hand Evolution keeps what works and discards (most of) what doesn't work. Think about schooling fish, the underlying rules are almost as simple as the rules for Conway's game of life, but the emergent behavior they produce are astonishingly sophisticated. Evolution at work honing the best algorithm.
So first we study "bumblebee-based connected vehicles." Next we create a good buzzness model to commercialize it!