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

ers currently used by robots to feel their way about their immediate surroundings with the advantage that, unlike laser scanners, lateral lines won't be blinded by other robots. This would allow autonomous robots to be deployed in swarms, opening the way for entirely new applications.

Biophysicist Prof. van Hemmen has more on his mind than just autonomous underwater robots. His goal is to develop and combine new forms of technological sensory perception, as he is convinced that in this way machines can perceive their environment with much greater accuracy. "The key here is 'multimodal sensing,'" he explains. "Humans, too, don't rely on a single sense. Our brains combine the input from a variety of senses to create an overall image of our surroundings. It is not until one of our senses fails us that we appreciate how important this combination is." Prof. van Hemmen graphically demonstrates this using the following example: "It normally takes maybe ten seconds to strike a match. But if you put on thin gloves to take away the sense of touch, it becomes much harder. Often the task then takes more than a minute."

Van Hemmen is also convinced that robot intelligence benefits little from installing even more cameras to supply even more images. He believes that it is more important for robots to perceive different aspects of their environment with a variety of sensors. However, when it comes to combining these different perceptions, he has to delve deep into the secrets of brain research: How do animals sift through a mass of data to filter out what is really relevant? How do humans manage this? The CoTeSys excellence cluster, he believes, presents an opportunity not just to answer these questions, but, through interdisciplinary cooperation among physiologists, information technologists and engineers, to transfer the new-found principles to the world of technology: "To be alert means reducing data to its essentials. Robots must learn to do this too, eve
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Contact: Markus Bernards
bernards@zv.tum.de
49-892-892-2562
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert

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