Scientists Using Kinect To Study Locust Swarms

Who says you have to use a product for its intended use? (You can't claim product liability in these situations, but that's beside the point.) A team of ecologists are showing the world that the Kinect can do more than just enhance video games or change the way you play video games. They are using the Kinect to study how swarming locusts function alone and in groups.

And no, we aren't talking about the Locust from Gears of War, although those seem to swarm as well.

Iain Couzin of Princeton University and his lab have been using the Kinect to make discoveries for awhile now. Some discoveries were planned, while others were like the discovery of penicillin (aka not planned). One of his accidental discoveries was learning that swarming locusts in the western Sahara desert swarm because the locusts are trying to eat and evade one another at the same time.

"We just discovered by accident that the locusts were trying to eat each other," Couzin said. "So when it looks like a cooperative swarm, in actual fact it's a selfish, sort of cannibalistic horde. Everyone is trying to eat everyone else and trying to avoid being eaten."

His team is using the Kinect to collect "more detailed data" about how these locusts behave, and what he finds could end up saving lives. Locust swarms cause hundreds of deaths in West African countries by devouring all of the crops in their path. His research may be able to predict these swarms, thereby allowing farmers to prepare control measures to save their crops and help fight starvation.

I bet you never saw this coming, did you?

And by the way, this is just more proof that all locusts are horrible, horrible monsters, and not just on Sera.