Description of LEURRE
Lures in LEURRE and Artificial Life
The use of lures is very
old in the history of interactions between humans and animals.
These lures are often the result of a tradition, obtained by
“trials and errors”. Most of the time, previous studies of the
behaviors of the animal (isolated or in collectivities) are
absent. Moreover, these lures do not interact together and do
not have any adaptive capability.
At the individual level, behavioral sciences have shown that
animals’ interactions could be rather simple signals and that
it is possible to interact with animals not only by mimicking
their whole behaviors but also by making specifically designed
artifacts. At the social level, the theory of self-organisation
applied to animal societies shows that very simple, but numerous,
interactions taking place between individuals may ensure complex
performances at the level of the group and produce collective
capabilities. In this context, LEURRE
will develop mixed-societies composed of animals and robots
that interact and communicate.
One of the main fundamental questions in social biology is to
understand the link between individual and collective behavior.
An elegant way to identify individual behavioral algorithms
consist in replacing some animals within a group by robots and
comparing collective responses in “mixed" and “natural" groups.
The main part of LEURRE
will deal with experiments blending together cockroaches and
small insect-like robots, the LEURRE
insbots. The main goal is to demonstrate that it is possible
to mix insects and specifically designed robots that interact
and communicate. We will then show that the lure robots allow
the control of the global behavior of a mixed-society.
Another important part of the project is the experimental study
of individual and collective behavior of sheep. Then, the project
will use the gained methodology developed in the first part
of the project to evaluate its application in agriculture, especially
in sheep breeding where lures could be put at work to induce
desired collective behavior at the level of the herd.
LEURRE project and complexity science
Societies (as groups of
animals, of robots, or mixed-societies of robots and animals)
are complex systems with non-linear dynamics. The project will
be focused on classical questions in complex systems: studies
of pattern formation i. e. their functionality and the mechanisms
needed to create these patterns. Different disciplines interested
in Complex Systems are present in the project: Physics with
concepts like multi-stationnarity, spontaneous pattern formation
and self-organisation; Ethology with the study of animal societies;
Artificial Intelligence and Information Theory with distributed
computing and distributed information and their consequences
on pattern formation.
In societies (including mixed-societies), the information on
the environment is changing and incomplete. In this context,
behaviors and communication have distinctly random elements
moreover signals can be blocked or can interfere with each other.
Far from being undesirable, individual randomness can help the
team to reach collective solutions that would otherwise be overlooked.
Amplifying communication is a characteristic of group-living
animals (e. g. recruitment, social imitation,... Most self-organized
decisions and patterns arise as a result of a competition between
different sources of information that are then amplified through
different forms of positive feedback. In contrast, negative
feedback often arises automatically as a result of the systems
constraints (e. g. limits on the supply of food, the number
of available individuals,...).
LEURRE and the Quality of Life
EU policy encourages research
that will strengthen the technical and economic competitiveness
of bio-based industries through integration of various scientific
disciplines. This means the development of new and sustainable
systems of production, including breeding methods and exploitation
in agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, taking into account
profitability, the sustainable management of resources, product
quality and employment as well as animal health and welfare.
Modern agriculture is looking for new methods, increasing the
animal welfare and less disturbing for the animals and the environment.
In the management of animal populations, it means to take account
of the basic behavior of the animals. This multidisciplinary
project fits with these aims and will provide the scientific
and technological basis for the development of new innovative
breeding and management methods which integrate basic and social
behavior of the animals. Indeed, most of the species that we
are breeding or fishing are social, living in large groups.
It will contribute to the improvement of health and animal welfare
and a better environmental management. LEURRE
has also potential applications in natural systems like the
management of the pest and invasive species which are often
Environment protection, animal welfare or animal feed safety
and economic growth need to be reconciled. This reconciliation
requires greater understanding of the environment and the living
organisms and development of information sciences. Improving
the way natural resources are managed is an important investment
in Europe’s future. We need to understand biological systems
In the context of the control and the management of animal natural
resources, the importance of the behavioral and social levels
are often underestimate. LEURRE
will show how these knowledge can be implemented and what are
the methodology, the tools and technologies we need. Together
with the conceptual knowledge developed in the project, social
environmental organisers could use behavioral control to direct
desired collective response.
LEURRE and its importance for Europe
project contributes to the Community’s research policy: LEURRE
consortium brings together the different knowledge required
to successfully meet the project objectives and establishing
communication links for other interdisciplinary research in
artificial systems and the life sciences.
The control of interactions between artificial systems and living
organisms is thus a key aspect in the design of artificial systems,
as well as in many agricultural, medical, scientific and technical
fields. Moreover, different EU programs, highlight the growing
importance of this synergy between the artificial and natural
systems. The fields of collective intelligence and micro-robotics
are today critical and both research and industry are urged
to find tools en methods for understanding, and controlling,
fast growing fields of the technology such as collective robotics.
The collective intelligence (or self-organisation) in natural
and artificial systems, bio-inspired robotics and micro-robotics
and modelling of multi-agents systems are the subject of active
research and Europe is already a leader in these fields.
LEURRE has the potential
to put Europe in a leading role in these new fields which are
the mixed artificial - natural systems and the collective (bio)robotics.
The project is expected to bring advances in these fields and
to give Europe a leading position in this new field of mixed
societies and control of natural populations with autonomous
and/or bio-mimetic agents.
Standardisation Though this is a long-term goal the project
could contribute to standardisation. Standards are an important
thing in the industry and science. They create markets that
can either be closed (proprietary standards) or open (open standards).
Open standards have shown to be able to create markets in which
a wide range of diverse players can compete or find niches,
generally to the benefit of the customer. In order to prepare
for such an open market for the technologies of emergence control
the consortium judged it to be important to set standards into
place as quickly as possible. All the tasks related to the modelling
and development of the behavioral algorithms are the roots of
This project prepares the achievement of the anticipated industrial
and economic results by improving the basic approach to monitor
and control blend societies where humans, animals and artefacts
It is therefore of outmost important that the results of the
project are disseminated to the scientific and industrial world
to stimulate and catalyse the development of laboratory prototypes,
industrial prototypes and spin offs. This will be realised by
scientific articles by each of the partners in peer reviewed
journals, but also by an easily available website and by workshops
targeted to potential users of the results.
Objectives of LEURRE
The behavioral model
will propose a modeling protocol to be applied to the calculus
of emergence in mixed-societies and study its properties. Its
goal is similar to research in collective intelligence or self-organization,
namely to understand how phenomena at one level of biological
organization (here social) emerge from the properties of lower-level
units (individual behavior). Having determined the pathways
of information flow among the units and their behavioral rules,
analytical and numerical models enable to predict the properties
of the mixed society.
LEURRE is mainly concerned
with the dynamics and the emergence of collective patterns.
We consider three types of entities: the animals, the robots
and the chemical/physical variables (e. g. pheromone, sound,
building material, resource, shelter,. . . ).
The robots and animals (the autonomous agents) are characterized
by their position, orientation, activity and internal state
(e.g. a physiological variable, memory,...). Each unit obeys
rules that determine its reactions as a function of (i) the
signals it receives from the environment and others individuals,
(ii) their internal state, (iii) their present activity. The
responses are probabilistic and lead to a change of their activity,
internal state, position and movement. In turn, these changes
affect the environment and the other natural or artificial entities
of the group.
The chemical or physical variables are governed by rules describing
their dynamics in space and time. For instance, in the case
of pheromones, differential equations describing the time evolution
of their concentrations are sufficient. These equations comprise
three terms: (1) the "birth" (production); (2) the "death" (destruction,
disappearance e.g through evaporation); (3) the propagation
(diffusion, convection,...). Because we work with behavior and
communications based on the intensity, gradient,... and with
mixed societies, the robots and animals are governed by similar
behavioral rules and communications.
It implies that the mathematical tools used to describe the
behaviors of the two categories of autonomous agents are the
same. These behavioral models are then formalized into programming
languages to use them in computer simulations and to store them
in a behavior database together with a library of tools (algorithms,
constraints,...). A user-friendly interface will be provided
for using this database and make computer simulations.
Experimental and computational realization of mixed-societies
The main goal of LEURRE
is a real-life realization. The project aims to build mixed
societies of living insects with specifically designed robots
or insbots (insect-like robots).
The behavioral model is one of the tools to manage this realization.
Firstly, we will develop models of several behaviors of insects
(e. g. random-walk, probability to stop, probability to stay
in a cluster,. . . ). Secondly, this model will be mapped into
the insbots that will "inherit" the defined behaviors and protocols.
The engineering of interactions between artifacts colonies and
animal colonies (living organisms) is a key aspect of the design
of artificial systems. Complex performances do not always require
complex individual behavior. It is our hypothesis that interesting
developments also pertain to simpler interactions.
The main problem in the LEURRE
project is communication and interaction between animals and
robots. The signal emitted by the animals has to be detected
by the robot and, vice versa, the robot has to be able to emit
signals detected by the animals. Hence, it is important to choose
situations in which communication is not only simple, but also
that the signals used by the animals to communicate are easily
detected by the sensors of the robots. This is one of important
limiting steps of the project. However, in many animal groups
that display collective intelligence, the signal remains relatively
simple to detect, being for instance, movement, position of
the body, or simple chemical signals. This is why the gregarious
cockroaches are our experimental model.
Controlling the global behavior of a mixed-society is feasible.
Here, control means directing the emergence of some global pattern.
We will show that it is possible to trigger such an emergence
by temporarily or permanently adding to the system entities
with specific behaviors. In the LEURRE
project, it will be done by introducing insbots, as lures, in
a group of insects. These insbots will have to be distributed
(by the nature of the system), adaptive (because of the interaction
with the animal colony) and robust (to assure control). To highlight
the effective communication, we will show that a collective
behavior, such as aggregation, can be controlled by the use
of lures. The insbots will be able to push the group towards
a totally new collective behavior such as an unnatural pattern
of aggregation. Moreover, we will show (for some situations)
that after reaching the new pattern, the lures can be removed
without changing the collective behavior that remains stable.
Towards a modeling and experimental methodology to control
Guidelines towards a methodology
for the study and the control of mixed-societies will be provided.
One fundamental goal here is to understand how the superstructures
arise from the actions and interactions of the members of the
group: “What are the typically configurations that support a
priori emerging organization of mixedsocieties”.
Hence the aim here is identical to that of much research in
CI (Collective Intelligence), namely to understand how phenomena
at one level of biological organization emerge from the properties
of lower-level units. We need to determine the pathways of information
flow among the units and their behavioral rules of thumb. Unfortunately,
it is generally extremely difficult to predict, whithout a formal
modeling, the properties of complex systems, such as animal
groups, which are comprised of multiple components with complex,
However, mathematical equations and computers enable one to
predict the properties of complex systems, and so they provide
a means of evaluating one’s model of a group’s internal machinery.
The approaches just described are likely to yield strong suggestions
about how a group works, but testing the accuracy and completeness
of one’s understanding requires a further stage in the analysis:
formulating a rigorous model which embodies one’s current understanding
of how the group works. Here one takes a bottom-up approach
to model building, to give shape to the model.
Relevance of our results to quality of life and management
of living resources
The evidence of our results
to the control of emerging configurations in agriculture and
environment will be provided. There are needs of new and sustainable
systems of breeding methods and exploitation in agriculture
and fisheries, taking into account profitability, as well as
animal health and welfare. We will show how our methodology
(quantification, modeling and use of intelligent agents to control
group) and our results obtained with the model cockroach-insbot
may be extended to these questions.
Most of the species that we are breeding of fishing show highly
collective behavior. Despite, the differences between insects
and mammals societies, similar basic rules govern the organization
of these species. Many behavorial issues appearing in animal
societies have a strong self-organised component: synchronisation
of activities, aggregation, sorting,...
As most self-organised systems are very sensitive to small quantitative
changes at the individual level, it is possible that a limited
number of robots interacting within the group might give the
opportunity to the animals to escape from some sub-optimal solution
by introducing new collective behaviours. Breeding domestic
animals, taking into account their welfare is concerned with
such mixed groups of robots and animals. For instance, the control
of the behaviour of domestic fowl and other birds of poultry
farming gathered in very large number is one example. Social
imitation plays a key role in these species and most of their
collective behaviour results from positive feedback. An example
of application could be the control of collective panic movements,
which may result from such positive feedback and often induce
high mortality in some species. A robot (or a group of robots)
could be able to induce a new wanted behaviour or modify the
organisation of the group in order to damp the snowball effect
of collective panic.
In the LEURRE project, special
attention will be paid on breeding and life management of sheep.
A concrete problem we will tackle using our methodology is to
model the collective behavior of sheep and their control with
an artificial agent.
Another example concerns pests that are often highly social
species. In general, methods of management acting at the level
of the social behaviour should be much more efficient than the
usual destructive methods. One example of pest management refers
to birds roosting by thousands in a given place that might be
the source of various environmental problems especially for
local inhabitants. In such context, a control of the roosting
behaviour by using relatively simple robots would be able to
affect the spatial distribution of these wild animals.
Robotics has much to learn from ethology while robotics may
surely help ethology to explore animal behaviour. The main goals
of this project is to show that complex collective responses
may emerge from individual simplicity and simple signals and
that experiments using lures mimicking these simple signals
are able to modify the group behaviour. The different problems
to solve and the potential benefits that can be gained by mixed
societies are sufficiently important to initiate and develop
research in this direction.
Realization of LEURRE
project involves the combined effort of the following partners:
the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Brussels), co-ordinator
of LEURRE, the International
Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry (ISI, Brussels),
technical leader of LEURRE,
the Université de Rennes I with the French CNRS (EVE, Rennes),
the Université Paul Sabatier with the French CNRS (UPS, Toulouse),
the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Lausanne)
and one subcontractor A. Martinoli (Lausanne). The teams of
the consortium are familiar with social behavior, collective
intelligence, complex and artificial systems. They are also
highly complementarily, with people who share world-leading
competence into the domains of investigation concerned with
the project. The teams are specialists of ethology and animal
societies (ULB, UPS, EVE), models in the fields concerned with
the project (ISI, EPFL, ULB) analysis of collective behavior
(ULB, UPS), individual and collective robotics (EPFL). Broadly
speaking, the teams are specialists of identification of the
mechanisms and their adaptive value or they have competence
and experience in building and managing artificial systems.
Moreover — and it is important for this interdisciplinary project
— these teams have common interest, complementary knowledge
and some tradition of collaboration. All partners have previous
experience with interdisciplinary work (e. g. experimental and
theoretical works; biomimetics project) and most of the partners
have already collaborated successfully before in a European
context. The project can be described as a strong web of interactions
between the teams. Each team is involved, at least, in two tasks.
Moreover for each task, at least, two teams will co-operate.
The project needs an European level and cannot be conducted
at the national level for both reasons of complementary knowledge
and critical mass.
- EPFL-ASL1: with its
experience in building autonomous robots. This team is responsible
for the design and the building of the insbots. Their first
contribution will be in work-package 1. Their second contribution
will be in workpackage 2. They will be also involved in work-package
- EPFL-SWIS: with its
experience in development of (automatic) design, modeling, control, and optimization methodologies
for self-organized, collectively intelligent, distributed systems. Its contribution will be in work-package
1 & 2.
- EVE: a specialist
of cockroach ethology, will be highgly involved in the design
of the Insbots as well as the tests between insbots and insects.
The first work-package for EVE will be work-package 1, but
EVE will also contribute to work-package 2.
- ISI: the research
activities of the Solvay Institutes involve both fundamental
and applied problems in non-linear science. The ISI will contribute
to apply innovative techniques to implement the behavioral
algorithms and to design the behavior database (work-package
1). ISI and the ULB are responsible of the different theoretical
tools (simulations) of work-package 2 and workpackage 3.
- ULB with its
experience in collective behavior and ethology is responsible
for the different collective experiments with the help of
the UPS (for his experience of image analysis and data analysis
applied to the collective behavior in work-package 2 and work-package
- UPS with its
experience in mammals behavior is responsible of the task
Agriculture (work-package 3). UPS will also contribute to
the behavioral modeling (work-package 1) and to the image
and data analysis package.
All partners will contribute
to the project initialisation, the evaluation and the tests
of results and to the dissemination of outcome, each from their
own point of view. However, ISI will undertake major effort
in the dissemination of the outcome to stimulate new applications.
The roles of the partners complement each other; on the other
hand, the consortium is complete with respect to the objectives
sought. Moreover, with the planned work programme, close co-operation
is ensured: the continuous interplay between tasks and exchanges
of research outcomes and intermediate deliverables will be the
key to the success of the project.