Human-like Brain For Robots?

Bio-inspired integrated circuit technology under development at NUI Galway and the University of Ulster mimics the neuron structure and operation of the brain and will help robots to think for themselves.

“Electronic neurons, implemented using silicon integrated circuit technology, cannot exactly replicate the complexity of neurons found in the human brain, or the massive number of connections between neurons,” Dr Fearghal Morgan, director of the Bio-Inspired Electronics and Reconfigurable Computing (BIRC) research group at NUI Galway, explained.

“However, inspired by the operation and structure of the brain, we have successfully developed a hardware spiking neural network and have used this device for robotics control,” he said.

Morgan said the electronic device interprets the state of the robot’s environment through signals received from sensing devices, such as cameras and ultrasonic sensors, which act as the eyes and ears of the robot.

The neural network then modifies the behaviour of the robot accordingly, by sending signals to the robot’s limbs to enable activity such as walking, grasping and obstacle avoidance.

The intent is to create robots that are able to move and react autonomously in challenging environments like space exploration and search-and-rescue operations.

SF writers have long imagined robot brains that are structured like those of humans.

Isaac Asimov, in his short story Reason,

All that had been done in the mid 20th century on "calculating machines" had been upset by Robertson and his positronic brain paths. The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of platinum iridium about the size of the human brain. (Read more about the positronic brain)

Robert Heinlein, in his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,

When Mike was installed in Luna, he was pure thinkum, a flexible logic - "High-Optional, Logical, Multi-evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV, Mod. L" - a HOLMES FOUR... They kept hooking hardware into him... By third year Mike had better than one and a half times that many neuristors. (Read more about Mike the HOLMES Four computer)

From Silicon Republic.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/19/2011)

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