Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biology inspires perceptive machines

09.02.2006


Teaching a machine to sense its environment is one of the most intractable problems of computer science, but one European project is looking to nature for help in cracking the conundrum. It combined streams of sensory data to produce an adaptive, composite impression of surroundings in near real-time.



The team brought together electronic engineers, computer scientists, neuroscientists, physicists, and biologists. It looked at basic neural models for perception and then sought to replicate aspects of these in silicon.

"The objective was to study sensory fusion in biological systems and then translate that knowledge into the creation of intelligent computational machines," says Martin McGinnity, Professor of Intelligent Systems Engineering and Director of the Intelligent Systems Engineering Laboratory (ISEL) at the University of Ulster’s Magee Campus and coordinator of the Future and Emerging Technologies(FET) initiative-funded SENSEMAKER project of the IST programme.


SENSEMAKER took its inspiration from nature by trying to replicate aspects of the brain’s neural processes, which capture sensory data from eyes, ears and touch, and then combines these senses to present a whole picture of the scene or its environment. For example, sight can identify a kiwi, but touch can help tell if that kiwi is ripe, unripe or over-ripe.

What’s more, if one sense is damaged, or if a sensory function is lost due to environmental factors, say because it can’t see in the dark, the brain switches more resources to other senses, such as hearing or touch. Suddenly those faculties become comparatively hypersensitive. When it goes dark the brain pours resources into these two senses, along with hearing and smell, to extract the maximum possible data from the environment.

The team concentrated on two particular senses, namely sight and touch. The experimental touch-sensor system, developed in Heidelberg and used by the SENSEMAKER partner Trinity College, Dublin, is itself quite novel. It features an array of small, moveable spring-loaded pins. This enabled psychophysical experiments on touch and vision to be conducted on humans and was a very valuable tool in exploring human responses to sensory integration. The results from these experiments helped to inform the sensory fusion model.

Modelling sensory fusion

The project has created a sophisticated, biologically-inspired model of sensory fusion, for tactile and visual senses. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the project is the creation of a framework which allows extensive experimentation in terms of sensory integration. The project’s work can easily be extended into other sensory modalities; for example the project partners are currently planning to extend the work to auditory senses. The hardware implementation(s) of the model, which allow for extremely rapid learning as compared to biological timescales, will be exploited in follow-up projects.

"Using these systems we were able to show that the merging of tactile and visual information, or sensory fusion, improved overall performance," says Professor McGinnity. The ultimate outcome of this type of research is to implement perception capabilities in computer systems, with applications in a wide range of areas including robotics.

But a greater understanding of biological sensory fusion, and how to implement it in artificial systems, could do potentially much more.

"This type of research teaches us a lot about how biological systems work, and it could lead to new ways of treating people with sensory-related disabilities, though that kind of outcome will take a long time," says Professor McGinnity.

He says intelligent systems need to adapt to their environment without reprogramming; they need to be able to react autonomously in a manner that humans would describe as intelligent; for that they need a perception system that enables them to be aware of their surroundings.

Two other projects will carry aspects of their work further. The FACETS project, also funded by FET will continue to explore machine perception, focusing on vision. Meanwhile ISEL at Magee Campus is actively engaged in a major proposal to create a Centre of Excellence in Intelligent Systems. The Centre will progress a range of research problems related to the creation of intelligent systems, including sensory fusion, learning, adaptation, self-organisation, the implementation of large-scale biological neural sub-systems in hardware and distributed computational intelligence.

The project has brought to the team’s biologists and neuroscientists a greater knowledge and understanding of the engineering approach to problem solving and system design; conversely the engineers on the team benefited from a vastly improved insight into the world of biological system modelling. Overall the project has contributed to an improved understanding of how biological systems merge multimodal sensory information. This is one of the most difficult problems in science today; the results of the SENSEMAKER project are being disseminated in high quality international journals, reflecting the fact that the research performed in this project is at the state-of-the-art. Both biological and neurological science on the one hand, and machine intelligence and computer science on the other have benefited from its successful conclusion.

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.lu/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/80430

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht NASA CubeSat to test miniaturized weather satellite technology
10.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New approach uses light instead of robots to assemble electronic components
08.11.2017 | The Optical Society

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>