A step towards a natural interaction between robots and animals


Newswise – Laboratory rats have been shown to have genetic consistency and drug-like responses to humans, making them ideal animal models for research and testing of new drugs. However, due to individual differences, it is always difficult to find a method of unified monitoring and evaluation of behavior. Indeed, bio-inspired robots can take advantage of their programmability and reconfiguration to replace rats, in order to effectively solve these problems. It has been verified that robots can influence or even control the behavior of real rats to some extent during robot-rat interaction. Some researchers have done a lot of work related to autonomous interaction. However, these studies still lack behavioral detection, rapid object tracking and a framework for automatic interaction.

Recently, a team of scientists from the Beijing Institute of Technology, China, proposed an automatic robot-rat interaction framework that enables a robotic rat to perform localization, tracking and analysis of movements in time. real of a lab rat (Rattus norvegicus) on IROS 2021. Preliminary robot-rat interaction tests show that the robot is able to track a fast-moving rat for a period of 10 minutes steadily. To their knowledge, this is the first time that a rat-sized robot has performed continuous tracking of real rats by an integrated miniature stereo vision system. The experimental results show that the state vector sequence can characterize certain behaviors typical of the real rat.

In addition, the team also designed a quadrupedal robotic rat by mimicking the morphological and kinetic characteristics of rats. Compared with other quadrupedal robotic rats, the newly developed robotic rat has smaller turning radius, higher walking speed and high capacity. In addition, the new four-legged robotic rat shows great adaptability to traverse irregular passages, climb slopes, overcome obstacles and recover from falls. These abilities allow him to solve the difficulties of crossing narrow spaces and performing tasks simultaneously. In addition to operating in tight spaces, the robotic rat could also benefit from behavioral research by promoting autonomy and reproducibility of rat-robot interaction experiences.

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