Clever as a blind fish, the underwater robot "Snookie" can orient itself in murky waters with an artificial sensory organ inspired by the so-called lateral-line system, found in fish and some amphibians. The experimental vehicle was developed by researchers at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen within the framework of the CoTeSys (Cognition for Technical Systems) excellence cluster. In the future, the researchers expect such capabilities to enable underwater robots to work autonomously in operations ranging from deep sea exploration to inspection of sewer pipes.
Conventional robots are tough. Hostile environments, toxic and corrosive gases, low light levels, moisture, dirt and disease mean nothing to them -- unlike humans, for whom such conditions are generally unbearable. However, these robots the ones typically in use today can only do their job provided that they are precisely programmed to take each step.
Autonomous robots, on the other hand, will in the future be able to react intelligently to their surroundings and perform their tasks largely independently. Rather than being rigidly programmed, they rely on their own sensory perceptions. This is after all the only way in which they can recognize the situation they are in and still fulfill their tasks. However, in harsh environments their senses often fail them, laid low by fumes, dust, water, or high temperatures. New senses are called for -- perhaps even sensory organs of a kind that humans lack.
A new research project undertaken by the CoTeSys (Cognition for Technical Systems) excellence cluster in Munich aims to develop the technology to master such new senses. Biophysicist Prof. Leo van Hemmen of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) has high hopes that the animal kingdom will provide the means to allow robots to perceive their environment. Fish, scorpions, even frogs, for example, perceive things that remain hidden to human organs. Not only are they able to det
|Contact: Markus Bernards|
Technische Universitaet Muenchen