Revolutionizing Animal Behavior Studies With Cutting-Edge Tech

SMART-BARN is poised to transform the field of animal behavior research, offering applications that span biology to artificial intelligence.

Revolutionizing Animal Behavior Studies With Cutting-Edge Tech

Researchers at CSCB and Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior have developed a groundbreaking technology lab called SMART-BARN, which uses multidisciplinary expertise in biology, physics, engineering, and computer science to monitor animal behavior in 3D within an 18th-century barn.

SMART-BARN is poised to transform the field of animal behavior research, offering applications that span biology to artificial intelligence. This technology can simultaneously track hundreds or even thousands of animals, depending on their size, facilitating the study of behaviors and interactions that were previously challenging to capture within laboratory settings.

One of the longstanding limitations in behavioral research has been the inability to study animals in both highly controlled lab environments and larger, uncontrolled settings in the wild. This limitation has hindered our understanding of various aspects of behavior, including collective behavior, which encompasses the intricate movements and interactions among animals that underlie their complex social lives.

SMART-BARN addresses this limitation by providing ample space and state-of-the-art technology. It leverages high-throughput techniques such as optical and acoustic tracking to precisely monitor the 3D position, posture, and field of view of animals. By doing so, researchers gain insights into complex behavior traits of individuals and interactions between animal groups, including insects, birds, and mammals.

The flexibility of SMART-BARN allows researchers to conduct different experimental paradigms, thanks to its modular design. It enhances the scale of indoor behavioral experiments in terms of experimental volume, measured behavior traits, and group sizes. This expanded capacity means that experiments can incorporate a wider range of animal species, some of which are typically not studied in indoor environments.

One notable achievement of SMART-BARN is its ability to track thousands of animals simultaneously. In a study conducted in the Imaging Hangar at the University of Konstanz, researchers tracked 10,000 plague locusts, a feat that would have been impossible without this technology.

SMART-BARN has already been applied to various experimental use cases involving pigeons, starlings, moths, bats, and even humans. It has facilitated interdisciplinary collaborations and is being used to explore the role of gaze in decision-making among birds and to develop computer vision and AI-based algorithms for 3D tracking of animals without markers.

The team behind SMART-BARN envisions it as a collaborative space where researchers from around the world can contribute to the exploration of behavioral questions. They invite researchers globally to connect and plan experiments, highlighting the limitless potential of this technology to expand our understanding of animal behavior.

SMART-BARN represents a pioneering leap forward in animal behavior studies, promising to unlock new insights into the complex behaviors of diverse species and drive innovations in various fields, from biology to artificial intelligence.