What Can Robots Learn From Rats?


According to researchers at the University of Jena in Germany, robots can reach new heights if they can learn to climb like rats. With the help of a special x-ray machine developed by Siemens, the researchers have succeeded to make a unique video mimicking the technique of high-speed strobe photography with x-ray images. Among other things, a robot capable of performing inspection or maintenance activities in previously unreachable locations could extend the lifespan of buildings and structures, perhaps even enable new green construction materials to be developed. One application foreseen is the inspection of electrical cables for fire prevention. Under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Hartmut Witte of the Technical University of Ilmenau, the team wants to overcome the biomechanical limitations which challenge climbers as the terrain gets steep. Biomechanical experts, radiologists and zoologists are joined by industry partners in the project, funded by 3.45 million € from the German Ministry for Research (BMBF). The project seeks to create the "Inspirat", a prototype climbing robot. Yes, in case you were wondering, the name does come from "inspiration" and "rat". The technology will be developed to meet market needs by industry partner TETRA GmbH.

Getting under a rat's skin? The new x-ray technique takes up to 500 pictures per second—from two different directions. Played back as a video, the movements of the limbs and skeleton of the rat during climbing become clear. The radiologist Dr. Alexander Petrovitch is credited by the team as the brains behind this new tool, which may be an even more important development out of this project than the "Inspirat" because it can help as humans learn to learn from nature.

Via ::University of Jena (German only)