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Using the Xbox to study locust swarms

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Using the Xbox to study locust swarms
07-23-2012, 05:46 AM
Post: #1
Using the Xbox to study locust swarms
another neat idea of how to use the Kinect for science!


the following are only excerpts. refer to the link for full text:

Once upon a time, people thought that swarming creatures such as fish, bees and locusts communicated their movements by "thought transference," or telepathy.

Thanks in part to the work of Princeton ecologist Iain Couzin, now we know better. Couzin's lab is using computer-vision technology and even the Xbox's motion-sensing camera, called Kinect, to try to get a grip on how these creatures maintain their individually but also function so gracefully as a collective.

Among the lab's most surprising discoveries: Locusts in the western Sahara Desert swarm because they're trying to not to be eaten by their cannibalistic buddies.

"We just discovered by accident that the locusts were trying to eat each other," he said. "So when it looks like a cooperative swarm, in actual fact it's a selfish, sort of cannibalistic horde. Everyone is trying to eat everyone else and trying to avoid being eaten."

Using tools like Kinect, Couzin's team is able to collect a much more detailed data set about how various organisms behave, which in turn makes it easier to figure out what they're doing and why.

Locust swarms are blamed for countless deaths in West African countries including Mauritania, which Couzin visited to conduct some of his research. The swarms buzz across the desert, chewing up all of the crops and vegetation in their paths.

Research about how and why the locusts swarm could lead scientists to be able to forecast locust swarms just like they would a weather event such as a tornado or hurricane.

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