Robots That Act Like Rats
Robots that act like rat pups can tell us something about the behavior of both, according to UC Davis researchers.
Sanjay Joshi, assistant professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, and associate professor of psychology Jeffrey Schank have recorded the behavior of rat pups and built rat-like robots with the same basic senses and motor skills to see how behavior can emerge from a simple set of rules.
Seven to 10-day-old rat pups, blind and deaf, do not seem to do a whole lot. Videotaped in a rectangular arena in Schanks laboratory, they move about until they hit a wall, feel their way along the wall until their nose goes into a corner, then mostly stay put. Because their senses and responses are so limited, pups should be a good starting point for building robots that can do the same thing.
Joshis laboratory built foot-long robots with tapered snouts, about the same shape as a rat pup. The robots are ringed by sensors so that they "feel" when they bump into a wall or corner. They are programmed to stay in contact with objects they touch, as rats do.
But when the robotic "rats" were put into a rectangular arena like that used for experiments with real rats, the robots showed a new behavior. They scuttled along the walls and repeatedly bumped into one corner, but favored one wall. Instead of stopping in a corner they kept going, circling the arena. "When we re-analyzed the animal data, we found that the animals were also favoring one wall over another as they bumped around in corners," Joshi said. "The robots showed us what to look for in animal studies."
The wall-following or corner-sticking is emergent behavior, he said. That means it is not written into the computer code, but emerges as a result of the instructions the robot follows as it interacts with the environment at each instant.
The team is also looking at the behavior that emerges when groups of robotic rats interact using different kinds of rules. This should show biologists what the rats may be doing. Understanding the biology of these simple systems might later inform the design of more sophisticated robots, Joshi said.
The work was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.
Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...