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Researchers equip robot sub with sensory system inspired by blind fish
Date:3/29/2010

brations transmitted through the ground to find their prey, even in the dark of night: These arachnids have sensory hairs on their eight legs, and their brains analyze the tiniest differences in the timing of vibration waves in the sand to detect where their prey is located. Similar algorithms can be used to analyze the lateral line perceptions of fish.

A favorite example studied by the researchers in Munich is the blind Mexican cave fish Astyanax. As a cave-dweller it has no need of sight in the darkness, and as the fish matures its eyes degenerate. Nevertheless, it has no difficulty in navigating its pitch-black habitat, reacting flexibly to changes and adapting quickly to new environments. The fact that robots can learn to do so too is demonstrated by "Snookie," an underwater robot built by an interdisciplinary team of scientists and technical specialists headed by Prof. van Hemmen. "Snookie" named after a species of perch with a distinctive lateral line is a robot fish made of Plexiglas and aluminum, about 80 centimeters long and 30 centimeters in diameter, stuffed to the gills with an electronic control system and a power supply. Among its striking external features are six propeller gondolas that drive and position the robot, and a yellow hemispherical nose to which the sensors that guide the underwater vehicle are secured.

The TUM scientists intentionally chose an underwater vehicle to test their technology, as such vehicles face a very particular set of challenges not experienced by autonomous robots on land:

  • Visibility under water is often limited to just a few centimeters.
  • The infrared detectors commonly used by land robots alongside cameras to identify their surroundings do not work under water.
  • Wireless communication is restricted under water due to poor propagation.
  • Energy supplies are limited to the capacity of the batteries, so all systems must operate with extreme efficiency.
  • Maximum reliabi
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Contact: Markus Bernards
bernards@zv.tum.de
49-892-892-2562
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert

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