Engineers Are Creating A Frankenstein Robot With A Rat's Brain And A Human Eye To Help It Navigate

A robot from the Terminator 3. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Australian researchers are looking at the way animals navigate to build robots who can find their way without getting lost.

Michael Milford, electrical engineering lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, says robots and animals alike must navigate to achieve their goals.

For animals navigation is for finding food, seek shelter or start a migration.

Similarly robots might need to find a charging station, get out of the rain or guide a person to a destination.

Dr Milford says his research is looking at new algorithms to enable robots to navigate intelligently, unrestricted by high-density buildings or tunnels.

“This is a very Frankenstein type of project,” Dr Milford said.

“It’s putting two halves of a thing together because we’re taking the eyes of a human and linking them up with the brain of a rat.

“A rodent’s spatial memory is strong but has very poor vision while humans can easily recognise where they are because of eyesight.

“We have existing research, software algorithms in robots, to model the human and rat brain.

“We’ll plug in the two pieces of software together on a robot moving around in an environment and see what happens.”

Dr Milford is one of Australia’s leading experts on developing technology to visually recognise locations and is chief investigator at the QUT-based headquarters of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Robotic Vision.

Current robotic and personal navigation systems leave much to be desired.

GPS only works in open outdoor areas, lasers are expensive and cameras are highly sensitive but in contrast, nature has evolved superb navigation systems.

Dr Milford said drivers could miss or take the wrong exit because personal navigation systems didn’t work in tunnels because there was no satellite signal.

“That’s an example of one of many ways we’d like to create really cool, useful technology,” he said.

Dr Milford said his research project could have benefits for manufacturing, environmental management and aged health.

He has been was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship worth $676,174 over the next five years.

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