(Credit: University of Oxford)

 

Flying moths inspire robotics

Imagine robots with parallel processing ability in a complex 360 degree visual environment

March 1, 2013

The hawk moth’s wings are a blur of mottled gray motion as it hovers tethered to a steel rod in large white plastic orb. Outside the orb in the darkened room, a projector casts moving patterns of dimmed light onto the sphere’s surface, illuminating the moth’s field of vision with oscillating stripes. …

These changing light patterns create altered visual environments for the moth inside to simulate real-world visual disruptions the moth might experience when exposed to wind gusts. As the patterns change, the moth makes rapid adjustments to its flight behavior to maintain constant stability, as the moth’s responses to the visual stimuli are detected by a force sensor attached to the end of the steel rod.

These recordings are helping Tonya Muller, a DPhil student in Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, to understand the moth’s remarkable visual-motor system, and identify the mechanisms of visual feedback in insect flight control.

:”Understanding vision-based flight control in insects has far reaching uses in the fields of sensor development, signal processing, and robotics,” says Muller, whose background is in mechanical engineering. Vision is important for information gathering in insects and up to 50% of an insect’s brain can be composed of visual neurons.

In fact, despite their small brain size, insects can solve extremely sophisticated orientation problems both rapidly and reliably. Yet their eyes are far less sophisticated than our own.

Read more: Flying moths inspire robotics | KurzweilAI.

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