Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Robo-rodent gets ’touchy-feely’

16.11.2005


Robots that ’feel’ objects and their texture could soon become a reality thanks to the innovative and interdisciplinary research of the AMouse, or artificial mouse, project.



But even more important, perhaps, are the lessons researchers learned about robot design and artificial intelligence. The project funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies initiative of the IST programme even developed new insights into biological brain function.

Researchers from Italy, Germany and Switzerland developed a ’feeling’ robot by developing a new sensor modelled on hypersensitive mouse whiskers. These AMouse researchers developed a large series of different sensors based on a wide variety of ’whisker’ types. These new sensors were then added to mainly standard Khepera research robots.


This not only gave the researchers insight into how mouse whiskers do their job, it also enabled them to develop prototypes that can be used to distinguish between different textures or an object.

The team demonstrated a real zest for innovation in their whisker design. One team from the University of Zurich used a variety of materials, from plastic to human hair. This was attached to the condenser plate of a microphone.

As the whisker encountered an object or surface, the whisker deformed the microphone diaphragm in a measurable way, allowing researchers to track characteristic signals from particular surfaces. The researchers then experimented with various whisker arrays and designs, to discover the optimal profile.

Even more exciting, however, were the results from ’multimodal’ sensor experiments. These use a combination of vision and touch through whisker and light or camera sensors. The mix of sensory inputs revealed how different data sources affect each other and how they combine to provide a clearer perception of any particular object. Some robots even manifested emergent behaviour.

Emergent behaviour is a primary characteristic of life. In biological systems the combination of various data, like touch and sight, reinforces specific neural pathways. These pathways come to dominate and can cause an entity to ’behave’ in a specific way.

In one startling outcome an AMouse robot demonstrated what appeared to be emergent behaviour: it developed a homing instinct without any pre-programming of any kind.

"Essentially we put in the sensors and then wire them up through the robots ’brain’, its CPU. We just switch it on without giving it instructions of any kind," says Simon Bovet, a Ph.D. student at the University of Zurich. When he threw the switch his robot started moving about the room but always returned to the spot where it began.

"I think emergent behaviour like this will be a major area in neuroscience and robotics research in the future," says Dr Andreas K. Engel, professor at the University Medical Centre Hamburg and coordinator of the AMouse project.

It will help develop robots that can evolve and it will also teach us much about human cognition. "We can study neural pathways and neural coding in a machine, in a way that’s currently impossible in humans. In a robot we can isolate a particular neural pathway to see what happens to other neurons when we trigger a specific one. In humans, if we stimulate one neuron it will influence changes a large number of other neurons, so it’s impossible to track what’s going on." Engel believes robotic models will offer many exciting insights into human cognition in the future.

Right now, he’s involved in another soon-to-begin IST project called POP, or Perception on Purpose, which will build on the neuroscience developed in AMouse to better understand how the human brain works.

Other partners will develop other aspects of this hugely multifaceted project, such as new robotic platforms and sensors.

"In terms of Neuroscience and Robotics, the US and Japan are the world leaders. But in terms of the combination of the two, Europe is leading, because they fall through a funding gap, just as this research does in Germany. EC funding closes that gap for Europe as a whole."

This is important, because Engel believes that the study and understanding of emergent behaviour will have an enormous influence in the future.

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.lu/

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues
16.08.2017 | University of Oxford

nachricht Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>