2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Korean engineers made a "hybrid" of a turtle and a robot: they attached a device to the shell that controls the movement of the turtle and guides it towards the target. According to the researchers, such hybrids can be used to deliver the robot to hard-to-reach places and to perform long-term tasks for which the autonomous robot does not have enough battery power. The article was published in the Journal of Bionic Engineering.
Despite the great progress in the development of robotics, robots still have a number of serious limitations, including they have a finite supply of batteries or accumulators, and their actuators and sensors can be damaged or broken in high humidity conditions. On the other hand, some animals can "carry" a robot, and their movement can be controlled.
The authors of the work have been trying to create a biorobot for several years. Previously, they published the results of experiments with turtles, the movements of which were remotely controlled by an operator. Man controlled the animal mentally, using the brain-computer interface. On the back of the turtle, engineers attached a camera that people could use to track its movements, and a stimulating device that
turned after the mental commands of the operator.
In the new work, the authors have created a fully autonomous system "parasitic robot-animal", which mimics the behavior of natural parasites that change the behavior of the host to achieve their goals. Such a system can be used to solve various problems, including long-term ones. Moreover, in addition to the robot, the system can include an energy generator that works while the turtle is moving, so that the robot can recharge its batteries on the way.
The scheme of the "robot-parasite - turtle" hybrid.
The robot, designed by the researchers, consisted of three modules: stimulation, reward, and control. As a stimulus, the scientists used LEDs that emit light in the visible range of the spectrum. The diodes were attached to a semicircular frame at the level of the turtle's eyes, 30 degrees apart. In total, they covered an angle of 120 degrees. The diode lit up in the direction where the turtle was supposed to go. The control module consisted of a microcontroller and a radio modem. He recognized the direction in which the reptile was moving and the angle of rotation of its head, and compared them with the target direction. If the turtle moved in the right direction, it was given a reward - a gel-like food that was squeezed into the animal's mouth from a syringe using a motor. The robot modules were attached to the tortoise shell using epoxy resin.
Hybrid testing was carried out in a water tank. The turtle had to travel a distance of five meters and successively pass five "control points". The robot guided the turtle from point to point, stimulating it with the light emitted by the LEDs, and, if successful, gave out a reward.
As a result, all five turtles successfully coped with the task, although they covered a longer distance than required - the average distance during the experiment was 7.18 meters.
Many other animals can be used as carriers for robots, such as birds or fish, according to the researchers. “Such robots can be used for observation, reconnaissance, in places where it is difficult for a person or a robot to get on their own,” explains Dr. Nathan Lepora, an engineer at the University of Bristol in the UK.
In the future, Korean engineers plan to test the system in real conditions and modify it in such a way as to reduce, if possible, external interference (extraneous noise, light or vibration) that can distract the turtle. On the other hand, a parasite robot, using sensors and a planned route, will be able to know in advance about possible obstacles and guide the turtle in the right direction in an optimal way. Over time, the researchers hope that the turtle will receive visual information only from the robot and completely "disconnect" from external reality.