Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-09122018-121115

Type of thesis
Mixed societies and bio-hybrid systems as tools for biological investigation and for bioinspired design.
Scientific disciplinary sector
INGEGNERIA - Biorobotics
relatore Prof. STEFANINI, CESARE
  • animal behaviour
  • animal-robot interaction
  • biohybrid systems
  • bioinspiration
  • biomimetics
  • bionics
  • biorobotics
  • ethorobotics
  • neuroethology
Exam session start date
Animal-robot biohybrid systems represent an emergent discipline proposing unconventional scientific challenges (e.g. collective cognition, non-symbolic communication channels, interspecific interaction), requesting non-traditional approaches that will contribute to the development of research and technology areas in both engineering and biology. <br>These animal-robot mixed societies are dynamic biohybrid systems where a biomimetic animal replica is located in a definite place and time simultaneously with authentic animals, establishing a biohybrid ecological interaction (e.g. sociality, gregariousness, competition, predator-prey interaction, parasitic interaction). <br>In this PhD thesis I focused on innovative approaches to establish animal-robot biohybrid interactions to successfully investigate and manipulate unexplored complex behaviours in animals. <br>The robotic platforms developed here can effectively modulate different behaviours of a species after an in-depth analysis of the animal model behaviour, and the subsequent designing of the artifact presenting relevant bioinspired features. <br>Herein, I modulated successfully several behaviours that play a key role in the energetics and the physiology of a species (e.g. the escalation of aggressive behaviours, the intensity of courtship displays; the coalescence of animal aggregations and their location in the space), thus potentially affecting the fitness of a species. Furthermore, many of these behavioural displays have been controlled by using cues that are inedited to animal communication systems (e.g. light stimuli). These results can greatly contribute to the management of natural systems and to control animals used as biosensors in the environment, pushing beyond the current state of the art in animal-robot mixed societies, as well as in multi-agent systems.<br>This thesis also provides a new paradigm of neuro-robotics by introducing biorobotic artifacts in neuroethological studies, and in particular in investigation focusing on laterality of several arthropod species. New scientific discoveries have been carried out by using the biorobotic approach, such as fascinating relationships between the evolution of the brain lateralization in vertebrates and invertebrates. In addition, the new scientific knowledge provided here can be exploited to design optimized control strategies in artificial systems endowed with a synthetic lateralized neural system. <br>A further contribution of this thesis is represented by the first biohybrid interaction involving a parasite and a robotic agent delivering host-borne cues. Biorobotics can produce new extraordinary opportunities to parasitology-oriented investigation, and in particular to the development of advanced and sustainable bioinspired devices for the control of vectors, parasites and pathogens of relevant medical and veterinary interest. <br>Therefore, one of the aims of this thesis is to pave the way to animal-robot biohybrid systems for real-world applications. In addition to new knowledge, this scientific field has a remarkable socio-economic impact on human being daily lives. Finally, I would like to highlight the importance to train novel scientists with a multidisciplinary background as a strategy to significantly advance this research field, and in general biorobotics, with advantages to both engineering and biology contexts.<br>