Robotics

Eagle-eyed robot can catch the common fruit fly

Eagle-eyed robot can catch the...
Researchers use a robot augmented with machine vision to uniquely identify and quickly sort fruit flies
Researchers use a robot augmented with machine vision to uniquely identify and quickly sort fruit flies
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This robot's ability to quickly capture and identify fruit flies allows new areas of research and frees scientists from drudgery
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This robot's ability to quickly capture and identify fruit flies allows new areas of research and frees scientists from drudgery
A fruit fly is safely and quickly sorted and identified, something that even skilled scientists find painstakingly slow
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A fruit fly is safely and quickly sorted and identified, something that even skilled scientists find painstakingly slow
A fruit fly is safely and quickly sorted and identified, something that even skilled scientists find painstakingly slow
3/4
A fruit fly is safely and quickly sorted and identified, something that even skilled scientists find painstakingly slow
Researchers use a robot augmented with machine vision to uniquely identify and quickly sort fruit flies
4/4
Researchers use a robot augmented with machine vision to uniquely identify and quickly sort fruit flies
View gallery - 4 images

Machine vision and robotic precision have combined in a new way to further fruit fly research. Scientists at Stanford's Bio-X program have developed a robot that can catch and sort the tiny creatures much faster than a human can, though to the flies themselves it must seem like an alien abduction.

The fruit fly (or Drosophila) is one of the most important model organisms used in biomedical research – it's easy to care for and has a well-understood genome that maps well to ours. It's also very small at around 2.5 mm in length, so traditionally the sorting, sexing, and identification of these tiny beasts requires many monotonous human hours and anesthesia. This isn't always a good mix, as I once discovered when my biology classmate inhaled a little too much ether while mouth-pipetting.

Using a beam of IR light invisible to the fly, the Stanford robot is able to identify individuals by the pattern reflected off the thorax. A small amount of suction is then applied to the thorax through tiny straw, safely lifting the fly and avoiding anesthesia.

A fruit fly is safely and quickly sorted and identified, something that even skilled scientists find painstakingly slow
A fruit fly is safely and quickly sorted and identified, something that even skilled scientists find painstakingly slow

Once restrained, the robot can identify the gender and physical characteristics of the fly and even prepare microdissections to analyze the brain.

Associate professor of biology Mark Schnitzer and his team were even able to perform behavioral studies with the robot, exposing the flies to different odors and seeing how they responded. Such experiments were previously impossible because humans simply can't distinguish individual flies, nor see specific behaviors.

In one experiment the robot was able to process 1000 flies in ten hours, unheard of for even an skilled scientist. The promise is not just that Drosophila scientists can spend more time doing, well, science, instead of moving flies, but that it also opens up new avenues of research.

The amazing fly-abducting robot was described last month in Nature Methods.

The video below demonstrates the quick (and painless) lift and release via robot.

Source: Stanford

Robot handling live fruit flies used in science experiments

View gallery - 4 images
4 comments
zevulon
this is a really big deal for funamental biology and genetics .
I predicted a technology like this years ago. and it's finally here.
people still don't accept how much we have yet to learn from flies that really isn't possible from other model organisms like nematodes (too simple) or zebra fish ( too wet and watery) there is nothing so large and complex as a fly that reproduces so fast.
they are a jewel of biology made specially by nature for the benefit of scientists.
this system will help milk volumes of understanding about genetics/epigenetics and pheno-geno type networks than ever before.
alx
My mother had done a research on the Drosophila fly some 80 years ago and got her BSc degree for this research from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. As an Entomologist she collected all kind of insects and her love for the tiny animal world brought me to study biology in High school further on. The results of your research is really amazing.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Need a mass produced version to catch flying insects inside.
mediabeing
Wait a minute. The fruit fly has to be restrained first before identification? Phooey! We already have a robot that can identify male from female mosquito while in flight and burn the wings off the female only. Let us know when you have a real break through.