Psikharpax: the robot rat

Psikharpax the robot ratDespite some freaky-looking androids coming out of Japan, we have yet to develop robots that can reproduce complex autonomous human behaviours. Perhaps the problem is that we’re aiming too high?

That’s the theory held at the Paris-based Institute for Intelligent Systems and Robotics, at least, who’re looking to the rodent world for inspiration:

Rather than try to replicate human intelligence, in all its furious complexities and higher levels of language and reasoning, it would be better to start at the bottom and figure out simpler abilities that humans share with other animals, they say.

These include navigating, seeking food and avoiding dangers.

And, for this job, there can be no better inspiration than the rat, which has lived cheek-by-whisker with humans since Homo sapiens took his first steps.

The rat is the animal that scientists know best, and the structure of its brain is similar to that of humans,” says Steve Nguyen, a doctoral student at ISIR, who helped show off Psikharpax at a research and innovation fair in Paris last week.

The goal is to get Psikharpax to be able to “survive” in new environments. It would be able to spot and move around things in its way, detect when it is in danger from collision with a human in its vicinity and spot an opportunity for “feeding” — recharging its battery at power points placed around the lab.

“We want to make robots that are able to look after themselves and depend on humans as least as possible,” said Guillot.

Seems like a good idea… provided they don’t build in the natural rodent propensity for rapid reproduction. [via GlobalGuerillas; image borrowed from linked PhysOrg article]