Scientists from the University of Lincoln and Newcastle University have created a computerised system which allows for autonomous navigation of mobile robots based on the locust’s unique visual system.
The work could provide the blueprint for the development of highly accurate vehicle collision sensors, surveillance technology and even aid video game programming according to the research published today.
Locusts have a distinctive way of processing information through electrical and chemical signals, giving them an extremely fast and accurate warning system for impending collisions.
The insect has incredibly powerful data processing systems built into its biology, which can in theory be recreated in robotics.
Inspired by the visual processing power built into these insects’ biology, Professor Shigang Yue from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science and Dr Claire Rind from Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience created the computerised system.
Their findings are published in the International Journal of Advanced Mechatronic Systems.
The research started by understanding the anatomy, responses and development of the circuits in the locust brain that allow it to detect approaching objects and avoid them when in flight or on the ground.
A visually stimulated motor control (VSMC) system was then created which consists of two movement detector types and a simple motor command generator. Each detector processes images and extracts relevant visual clues which are then converted into motor commands.
Prof Yue said: “We were inspired by the way the locusts’ visual system works when interacting with the outside world and the potential to simulate such complex systems in software and hardware for various applications. We created a system inspired by the locusts’ motion sensitive interneuron – the lobula giant movement detector. This system was then used in a robot to enable it to explore paths or interact with objects, effectively using visual input only.”
Funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the research was carried out as part of a collaborative project with the University of Hamburg in Germany and Tsinghua University and Xi’an Jiaotong University, China.