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Eggheads give two robots vodka and tell them to text each other FOR SCIENCE

Cyber-pheromone cocktails shaken, not stirred

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Academics have developed a method for delivering text messages through vodka spritzed into the air.

Unlike conventional vodka-powered texts – which involve lemon drops, smartphones and lingering regret – this new experimental system uses the alcohol itself as the medium for delivery.

The trio of researchers – Nariman Farsad and Professor Andrew W. Eckford at York University in Toronto, and Weisi Guo at the UK's University of Warwick – said their technology provides wireless communication between two robotic systems, which analyze concentrations of alcohol and convert the data into coded messages. Their boffinry was published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science under the title "Tabletop molecular communication: Text messages through chemical signals".

According to the eggheads, the sender sprays vodka at set intervals and concentrations to mimic a binary pattern of 1s and 0s. A second unit, placed four metres away in laboratory tests, then analyses the concentrations of the alcohol in the air and converts the data into digital code and characters, effectively receiving the transmitted missive.

"Our goal was to show that we could use chemical signals to transfer info instead of radio," said Nariman Farsad, doctoral candidate at York's Lassonde School of Engineering, who headed up the effort.

"We wanted to build a simple setup that other researchers could also use."

In controlled tests using the aid of a small fan, the trio were able to successfully transmit the text message "O CANADA" between two units. The team likened it to the pheromone and urine marking systems many animals species use to communicate over long distances.

The academics believe that such platforms can be implemented as backup measures should conventional wireless communications be disabled in emergency situations or in confined spaces where multiple robotic units are operating in sync.

"One robot could drive along and leave a pattern of chemical dots," explained Professor Eckford.

"The second robot drives over that strip reads the dots and it would work like a chemical bar code."

The researchers hope that the system could eventually be scaled down to serve as a means of communication for nano-scale machines. ®

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