Advancing Technology

Scientists Are Developing Robot Rats

United Press International • TAGS: Computers, Robots

REHOVOT, Israel, Feb. 12 (UPI)—A group of Israeli, European and U.S. robotics and brain researchers are developing robotic "rats" that can aid during rescue missions.

Based on principles of active sensing adopted widely in the animal kingdom, the multinational team is developing touch technologies, including a "whiskered" robotic rat. The whiskered robot will be able to quickly locate, identify and capture moving objects.

"The use of touch in the design of artificial intelligence systems has been largely overlooked, until now," said Professor Ehud Ahissar of the Weizmann Institute of Science and one of the researchers. "In nocturnal creatures, or those that inhabit poorly lit places, the use of touch is widely preferred to vision as a primary means of learning and receiving physical information about their surrounding environment."

Several groups of the international consortium are investigating ways in which rats use their whiskers to explore their environment and how the brain processes such information.

"If we succeed in understanding what makes an animal's sense of touch so efficient, we will be able to develop robots imitating this feature and put them to effective use," said Ahissar.