Sonar and ultrasound, which use sound as a navigational device and to paint accurate pictures of an environment, are the basis of countless technologies, including medical ultrasound machines and submarine navigation systems. But when it comes to more accurate sonar and ultrasound, animals' "biosonar" capabilities still have the human race beat.
But not for long. In a new project that studies bats, dolphins, and mole rats, Prof. Nathan Intrator of Tel Aviv University's Blavatnik School of Computer Science, in collaboration with Brown University's Prof. Jim Simmons, is working to identify what gives biosonar the edge over human-made technologies. Using a unique method for measuring how the animals interpret the returning signals, Prof. Intrator has determined that the key to these animals' success is superior, real-time data processing. "Animal 'echolocations' are done in fractions of milliseconds, at a resolution so high that a dolphin can see a tennis ball from approximately 260 feet away," he says, noting that the animals are able to process several pieces of information simultaneously.
Their research, which has been reported in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America and presented at the2010 and 2011 MLSP conferences,could lead to cutting-edge navigation systems and more accurate medical imaging.
Detecting "shape" from sound
Biosonar animals send ultrasonic sounds called "pings" into the environment. The shape of the returning signals, or echoes, determines how these animals "see" their surroundings, helping them to navigate or hunt for prey. In a matter of tens of milliseconds, the neurons in the animal's brain are capable of a full-scale analysis of their surroundings represented in three dimensions, with little energy consumption. Even with the aid of a supercomputer, which consumes thousands of times more energy, humans cannot produce such an accurate picture, Prof. Intrator says. With echoloca
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University