Science

Robots that Act Like Rats

Posted 18 Feb 2005 at 16:25 UTC by steve Share This

Roland Piquepaille writes, Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have recorded the behavior of baby rats in enclosed rectangular environments and saw that the rat pups, almost blind and deaf, didn't move much after hitting the walls of their cages. They decided to build rat-like robots, inject them some software and rules, and see what will come from this. Surprisingly, they saw that their robots didn't follow their software rules and started unexpected movements, such as circling the rectangular arena after a shock into a wall. This led them to revisit the original animal data and to conclude that baby rats also had similar behaviors even if they didn't pay attention to it previously. Now the researchers want to give different sets of rules to their rat-like robots to predict the behavior or more sophisticated robots -- and also the rats' one. For more, see Roland's blog or the original UC Davis Press release. For more technical details, there are several research papers about the project on the UC Davis RASCAL page.


Ah Rats!, posted 18 Feb 2005 at 18:58 UTC by The Swirling Brain » (Master)

they saw that their robots didn't follow their software rules...

Yeah right! Somehow I doubt that - technically speaking. :-)

But, it is cool that their rules that the robot DID follow actually helped them identify and simulate rat behavior that they hadn't previously recognized.

Swirling rat brains! Wicked!

I still don't believe this is emergent behavior, (ie: doing something beyond the programming) but very close. I'll believe it's emergent behavior when I see it traverse two levels of cognition, not one (like they should have expected it would do this behavior even if they didn't expect it.)

subsumption, posted 18 Feb 2005 at 19:10 UTC by steve » (Master)

When I saw "didn't follow their software rules" I assumed they were probably inaccurately describing subsumption, or as you say, emergent behavior. It would probably be more accurate to say something like "the robots exhibited unexpected behavior that resulted from unforseen interactions of their software rules with the environment" - or something along those lines.

Or, posted 21 Feb 2005 at 13:19 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

Or alternatively theier rulese did not accurately reflect the real world well enough for the robots to behave as predicted...

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