The new 'shepherd'

Published: Tuesday 30 September 1997

researchers in England are attempting to herd a flock of ducks with a robot. Researchers from the Silsoe Research Institute and Oxford University Computing Laboratory have chosen ducks in the test because they feel that ducks react quite like sheep, but move very slowly. This means that robots can keep up with them.

The three-year research project is not designed to produce a finished product. Instead, scientists are trying to discover if it is possible to create a robot that can quickly and competently herd a flock of ducks into a predefined position. The trials will take place in an indoor arena because the robot is not rugged enough to work outdoors. Researchers say that the real robot will be successful because computer simulations of both robot and ducks have worked well. Stephen Cameron, a member of the research team from the computing laboratory said, "So far we have only used simulated animals and robots. We are now getting all the links sorted between the real and simulated robot."

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