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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

HAMSTER - Symbiotic Exchange of Hoarded Energy
Christoph Ebener, Frank Fietzek , Uli Winters

Our project aims to establish a symbiosis of a population of hamster and a group of vehicles with intelligent steering units.

The Hamsters
For the experiment we use common golden hamsters. We pick mostly female individuals to prevent territory fights. For the exhibition their day/night cycle will be carefully switched to allow spectators to see things happen during the day.

The Vehicles
Each of these vehicles is driven forward by a built-in hamster running wheel, whenever a hamster enters it and starts running. Without a hamster inside the vehicles are totally immobile.

The microcontroller on each vehicle can distinguish light from dark with four light detectors and uses this information to control its steering system. Each vehicle has a solar panel mounted on its surface to collect electricity and store it in its batteries.

The Setting
There are 15 hamsters running free within an area of 50 m2 surrounded by a glass fence. A light source at one end of this area is the only light source in the whole installation, and there is an electric food station at the other end. Spectators can move around outside the glass fence and watch the experiment.

Whenever a hamster enters one of the vehicles (which they like to do quite often), it starts moving the vehicle forward by using the running-wheel. The microcontroller will steer the vehicle towards the light source where it arrests its wheel and stops. After refilling its batteries via solar panels, the vehicle will take the next hamster-lift to move over to the food station. Here it transmits its hoarded energy to the food station, whereby the station provides an amount of food for the animals. Since it has no additional power supply, the food station depends on the engine-gifts from the vehicles. When the next hamster gets into the wheel, the vehicle will start off for the light again.

The hamsters depend on the vehicle, because they deliver the energy for their food station, whereas the vehicles are unable to move without the hamsters’ physical power.

By creating an artificial symbiosis of this kind, the experiment aims to investigate the possibility of matching available behaviour patterns of animals on the one hand with complementary machine programs on the other. Is it possible to draw synergistic results from a collaboration of highly evolved animals and technical devices, if they are smart enough to canalize the animals’ need for their own purposes without abusing them?