Robotic Rat Follow-up

Spotted this follow-up article on the Scratchbot covered here several months ago.  In this update, the robot is showing off its abilities to search-out objects by touch.  No vision system is used.  This is a very novel approach and could have many search and rescue applications where the lack of light is an issue.  Check out the link below and also look at the video at the Electronics Weekly website.


Credit:  Bristol Robotics Laboratory and University of Sheffield via

… to damage and injury than whiskers. Rats have the ability to operate with damaged whiskers, and broken whiskers on robots could be easily replaced, without affecting the whole robot and its expensive engineering. This award is a welcome recognition …

Robotic 'rat' could become a lifesaver
(author unknown)
Mon, 30 Nov 2009 11:40:44 GMT

Robots Could Get a Sense of Touch

According to a story from the BBC News, “Robots of the future could have fingertips as sensitive as those of people, new research suggests.  Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield have been examining the way our brains interpret our senses.  They connected artificial mouse whiskers to a robotic brain to see how the brain processes information relayed by sense of touch.”  

The connection between robots and biology is one that I find fascinating, so this article just had to be a post on RobotNext.  Robots that have a human capability of touch could revolutionize many areas of automation.  Next generation robots will likely have this advanced touch sense.  With this ability, robotic surgery may find new uses as the surgeons might be able to actually feel what the robot feels.  Another use is in the area of prosthetics.  Imagine Dean Kamen’s “Luke Arm” with this sense of touch.   The nature connection here is that this idea came from the study of mouse whiskers.  When objects brush against the whiskers on a mouse, nerve impulses are sent to the brain and interpreted there.  Sensory information can be processed by the brain to determine the direction of movement of the object.  In this case, artificial whiskers were used and the brain just happens to be that of a robot.  The robot was able to learn to interpret the movements.  Read the complete article at the links below.

Credit:  BBC News

'Whiskers' may help robots touch
BBC News
The scientists found that when objects were brushed against the whiskers, the robot brain learned how to interpret the whisker movement according to its
and more »

'Whiskers' may help robots touch – BBC News
(author unknown)
Mon, 26 Oct 2009 01:14:40 GMT

Whiskered Robot Rat For Search and Rescue

The SCRATCHbot robot will be demonstrated at an international conference during the week of July 1, 2009. SCRATCH (Spatial Cognition and Representation through Active TouCh) is lauded as the next step in robot intelligence. This is yet another robot based on a biological model.  In this case, the model is a rat. RobotNext has reported on robot rats before in a post on June 7, 2009.  That ratbot was designed to explore how robots could develop a form of intelligent behavior by moving about a room and learning to avoid objects.  It has a vision system, sound sensors, and whiskers.  SCRATCHbot would be able to search out objects using only its whiskers. It was developed by Bristol Robotics Lab.  Read the story in two articles linked to below.


Photo: SWNS

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2009) — A team of scientists have developed an innovative robot rat which can seek out and identify objects using its whiskers.

Researchers Unveil Whiskered Robot Rat
Science Daily (press release) – USA
Tue, 30 Jun 2009 23:29:03 GMT

Dr Tony Pipe, deputy director of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, believes 'Scratchbot' could revolutionise the way use robotics in search and rescue missions…

Robotic rat can search for disaster survivors using whiskers
Wed, 01 Jul 2009 21:42:32 GMT