Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chapin's robo-rats minus the rats

The interwebs have had chatter recently about the use of rat-type biomimetic technology for wiggling through caves and cave ins. Below is a video clip of something similar done at SUNY, where rats were influenced to traverse a terrain under the control of stimulating electrodes in the barrel cortex.

Brief aside: For those of you not in the know on the world wide fever know as rat whisker barrel cortex, the idea is pretty simple: rats, which are nocturnal, navigate be feeling the deflections in their whiskers. When examining the somatosensory cortex, very distinct topography exists, and the individual whiskers can be seen. This is a semi-old finding, but important because it shows a direct relationship between some type of externally sense phenomenon and cortical arrangement (here's the Wikipedia entry for a little more). At SUNY, they placed stimulating electrodes in these 'barrel', and basically fooled the rat into thinking that it was brushing up against an obstacle to steer it.

Well, a secondary thing that has come of this is what has made the news: active sensing. Scientists in Israel have decided to build robots based on this idea. Many tiny little fingers with several integrated sensors on each feel and ID objects as it burrows around. Nifty, and a reason to recap roborats.

Tips to: Medgadget, Physorg, IO9

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