Fly AI

Happy 2017, everybody! We’re back in the office (for values of “we” equal to me and a cup of coffee – the rest of your friendly Comms team is still on vacation). I hope your New Year’s resolutions are still unbroken. Mine involves that coffee, which doesn’t have any sugar in it and is making January feel much bleaker than necessary. I’ll be fascinated to see how long I can keep it up.

On to the Pi stuff.

I spotted this magnificently creepy art installation from David Bowen just before Christmas, and have been looking forward to showing it to you, because I like to know I’m not the only person having specific nightmares. In this project, a Raspberry Pi AI is mothering a colony of flies: whenever if spots and correctly identifies a fly, it releases a dose of nutrients and water.

David says: “The system is setup to run indefinitely with an indeterminate outcome.”

Which means there’s potential for an awful lot of tiny corpses.

It all sounds simple enough, but there’s something about the build – the choice of AI voice, the achingly slow process of enunciating everything it believes it might have seen before it feeds its wards…the fact that the horrible space-helmet-bubble thing is full of flies – that makes for the most unsettling project we’ve seen in a long time.

Fly AI

If you are inspired by this arthropod chamber of horrors, you can read about more of David’s projects on his blog. You’ll be delighted to learn than this is not the only one employing house-fly labourers. More power to all six of your elbows, David.


Michael Horne avatar

Welcome back. Happy New Year! :-) Yes… that project is very worrying in a buzzy kind of way… Especially when you’re buzz-phobic like me! “indeterminate outcome” – *shudder* ;-)

Liz Upton avatar

Emma, our resident PhD entomologist, turned around and said “That’s not creepy! It’s LOVELY!” when I mentioned what I was writing. I’m shuddering right along with you.

Dougie Lawson avatar

In the past we had to be satisfied with xroach or groach skuttling virtual cockroaches across our Xwindows desktops.

HNY everyone at RPi Towers.

Liz Upton avatar

You too, Dougie!

Jongoleur avatar

Reminds me of the cockroach tank we had at school.

(Dunno WHY the tank, probably something to do with A-level Biology)

Happy New Year to all at Pi Towers!

Liz Upton avatar

I HATED those tanks. We had stick insects, and they smelled of death.

Andrew Oakley avatar

And there was me thinking “What could we do new and interesting, at Cotswold Raspberry Jam, that doesn’t need permission from NATS nor GCHQ and won’t set off the university smoke alarms?”

(fast-forward to the Monday morning after the Jam, and me explaining why four computer labs are buzzing with flies)

Richard Sierakowski avatar

Great to read you are trying to escape the addition to sugar. It is a psychoactive substance because it make people feel good but that pleasure is paid for by the toxic effect sugar has on the liver. The boom is sugar consumption has been reflected in the current crisis with the escalation of type 2 diabetes in the general population. This is not the fault of the consumers but that of “Big Food” advertising sugar and using its properties to boost food consumption as a means of generating additional profits for shareholders.

The good news is there are sugar free pies available and Raspberry Pis can help to distract from sugar cravings:)

All the best for the New Year to all.


J.A. Watson avatar

My favorite example of this deception is Tic Tac mints, which are allowed to advertise as “Sugar Free”, even though they are basically 100% sugar, because the amount of sugar in one “serving” (one TicTac) is less than 0.5 grams.

Shannon avatar

I am sorry to hear the coffee situation is depressing you. Maybe you should try some different gourmet blends. If you get good beans, you’ll find the lack of sugar less depressing.

As for the flys! YUCK! I hate flies. I’d make a little zapper and zap them as they fly near the probes. Entomologists are strange people. At local university events they always show up with bug cookies. My son grabbed one and ate it before I could say anything. I didn’t have the heart to say anything later. He said it tasted good.

Norman Dunbar avatar

Love the fly thing! Appeals to my sense of humour.

Happy New Year to everyone in the Pi Community, whoever and wherever you are, thanks for everything.

As for resolutions, I’m afraid I’m recycling mine again, from around the year 1990. My resolution is not to make any resolutions. I’ve never been able to figure out if I’ve broken it or not! :-)


Luke avatar

Happy New Year the Pi team. Hope you have another smashing year.

Marek avatar

Happy new year!
I had succes when switched from coffie to fruity flavoured tea(mango). Aroma was substituting sugar.Same with cacao.
For snack-dried dactiles and apples.
Good luck fighting sugar habits.

Liz Upton avatar

I’m lucky enough not to have a particularly sweet tooth, so I’m typically a fruit-eater rather than an eater of baked or other sugary snacks. The coffee, though…that’s tough!

Carl Jacobsen avatar

Identification is fine, but nutrients? It should be in control of a some servos to aim a laser, so when it correctly identifies a fly, it can fix the problem. ;-)

Fester Bestertester avatar

That would be a good starter for the Military: Identify missile/gun-flash, laser-zap! No more war.

Peter Hillerström avatar

Well, there is this fly revolver also. Kind of turns the problem around… :-O

JohnF avatar

“Time flies like arrows.”- famously parseable many ways. Got to rig up a system feeding tiny arrows to my local time-flies.
Welcome back to all the PiTowers gang. We do appreciate you and the humorous touches..

Liz Upton avatar

…And fruit flies like bananas. :D

Nothing like a nice NLP corner case. See also: “How old was the President when John F Kennedy was born?”

William avatar

I wonder if my Sinclair 1000 with the 16K RAM module could run this experiment.

Pete avatar

This project is HELLA HINKEY!

Chas avatar

Happy new year! I love Raspberry Pi! And cool idea!

Graham Toal avatar

Interested in the recognition! At some point, our bee monitoring project will want to identify intruders entering a hive.

David avatar

Interesting approach to reinforcement learning. The flies get rewarded, not the Pi…

Liz Upton avatar


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