‘Superhuman’ Robots Inspired By Nature

By combining the superior vision of the human eye with the navigation skills of a rat, researchers hope to design more effective navigation robots.

AsianScientist (Oct. 10, 2014) – Computer modelling of the human eye, the brain of a rat and a robot could revolutionize advances in neuroscience and new technology, says a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) leading robotics researcher.

Research by Dr. Michael Milford from QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B uses new computer algorithms to enable robots to navigate intelligently, unrestricted by high-density buildings or tunnels.

“This is a very Frankenstein type of project,” Dr. Milford said. “It’s putting two halves of a thing together because we’re taking the eyes of a human and linking them up with the brain of a rat. A rodent’s spatial memory is strong but has very poor vision while humans can easily recognize where they are because of eyesight.”

“We have existing research, software algorithms in robots to model the human and rat brain. We’ll plug in the two pieces of software together on a robot moving around in an environment and see what happens.”

Dr. Milford said the research would also study how the human brain degrades, in particular how it fails to recognize familiar places.

“The brain’s spatial navigation capabilities degrade early in diseases like Alzheimer’s,” he said. “So it has relevance as a potential study mechanism for studying mental disease as well.”

This research could also find applications in navigation technologies, manufacturing and environmental management.

“Current robotic and personal navigation systems leave much to be desired,” Dr. Milford said. “GPS only works in open outdoor areas, lasers are expensive and cameras are highly sensitive but in contrast, nature has evolved superb navigation systems.”

“We have very sophisticated models of human vision and a rat’s brain, which are already state of the art. We’ve got all the ground work there but plugging them altogether is the massive challenge we have. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to work and that’s why it’s research.”

The article can be found at: Milford and Schulz (2014) Principles of Goal-Directed Spatial Robot Navigation in Biomimetic Models.


Source: Queensland University of Technology.
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