HAMSTER: Concept (April 1999)

Symbiotic exchange of hoarded energy

Our project aims to establish a symbiosis between a population of hamsters and a group of vehicles with intelligent steering units. For the experiment we are using common golden hamsters. We have chosen a mostly female group to prevent territorial aggression. For the exhibition the hamsters day/night cycle will be reversed to allow spectators to see things happen during the day. The vehicles Each of the vehicles is driven forward by a built-in hamster running wheel. the vehicle is activated whenever a hamster enters it and starts running. Without a hamster inside the vehicles are totally immobile. The micro controller on each vehicle can distinguish light from dark via built in light detectors and uses this information to control its steering system. Mounted on its surface each vehicle has a solar panel to collect electricity and store it in its batteries.

Within a 50 m2 glazed enclosure 15 hamsters roam freely. There is a light source at one end of the enclosure, which is the only light within the entire installation, and a electric food station on the other side. 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 micro controller begins to steer the vehicle towards the light source where it brakes and stops. After recharging its batteries via solar panels the vehicle will take the next hamster lift to move over to the food station. Here it transmits its stored energy to the food station where upon the station dispenses a snack for the hamster. Since it has no additional power supply the food station depends upon the energy transfusions from the vehicles. With the next hamster getting into the wheel the vehicle will start off for the light again.

The hamsters depend on the vehicles because they deliver the energy for their food station, conversely the vehicles are unable to move without the hamsters physical power. By creating an artificial symbiosis of such kind, the experiment aims to investigate the possibility of matching the existing behavior patterns of animals on one hand with complementary machine programs on the other.
Is it possible to draw synergetic results form a colaboration of highly evolved animals and technical devices if they are smart enough to canalize the animals for there own needs without abusing them?