Automatically Tracking and Analyzing the Behavior of Live Insect Colonies

TitleAutomatically Tracking and Analyzing the Behavior of Live Insect Colonies
Publication TypeConference Papers
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsBalch T, Khan Z, Veloso M
Conference NameAGENTS '01 Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Autonomous Agents
Date Published2001///
ISBN Number1-58113-326-X

We introduce the study of {\it live} social insect colonies as a relevant and exciting domain for the development and application of multi-agent systems modeling tools. Social insects provide a rich source of {\it traceable} social behavior for testing multi-agent tracking, prediction and modeling algorithms. An additional benefit of this research is the potential for contributions to experimental biology --- the principled techniques developed for analyzing artificial multi-agent systems can be applied to advance the state of knowledge of insect behavior. We contribute a novel machine vision system that addresses the challenge of tracking hundreds of small animals simultaneously. Fast color-based tracking is combined with movement-based tracking to locate ants in a real-time video stream. We also introduce new methods for analyzing the spatial activity of ant colonies. The system was validated in experiments with laboratory colonies of {\it Camponotus festinatus} and several example analyses of the colonies' spatial behavior are provided.