Stick insects as a model for intelligent motion control in robots

Bielefeld Department of Biological Cybernetics at CITEC Center of Excellence coordinates new European research project.

February 2011 marks the start of the new EU research project EMICAB on intelligent motion control in insects and robots with a wide range of body sensors and bionic drives. The goal of the project is the autonomous control of intelligent motion and exploration behaviour in an unfamiliar environment. Biological models such as stick insects will be used to improve the intelligent motion of robots. Integrating sensors, controls, and motor into bionic body mechanics will allow a robot to move autonomously through an unfamiliar environment. Methodologically, EMICAB will be abstracting biomechanical, neuroethological, and neurogenetic findings on the planning and control of complex sequences of motion and using software to model these in the form of artificial neural networks. It will also be constructing a bionic, hexapod robot with elastic drives and a whole range of body sensors. The bionic concept of the robot and its control algorithms should serve as a basis for cognitive behaviours such as object manipulation and mental forward planning.

The project entitled "EMICAB - Embodied Motion Intelligence for Cognitive Autonomous roBots" is being coordinated by Prof. Dr. Volker Dürr, Head of the Department of Biological Cybernetics at Bielefeld University's Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC). A second CITEC research group, Dr. Axel Schneider's Mechatronics of Biomimetic Actuators, is also participating in this project. Further cooperation partners come from the Universities of South Denmark in Sønderborg (bionic sensors), Catania in Italy (modelling of dynamic systems), and Mainz (neurogenetics).

The project is being funded within the 7th EU Research Framework Programme in the funding line "Information and Communication Technologies", field "Cognitive Systems and Robotics". The budget for the 3 years up to 2014 is more than 1.5 million Euro, and one-third of this is being allocated to Bielefeld University.

Volker Dürr is Professor of Biological Cybernetics at Bielefeld University. After completing his PhD on a neurobiological topic in 1998 at Bielefeld University and the Australian National University in Canberra, he went on to gain his postdoctoral habilitation at Bielefeld University in 2005. From 2007 to 2009, he ran his own research group as a research fellow at the Zoological Institute of the University of Cologne. In April 2009, he accepted a chair at Bielefeld University where he is a "Responsible Investigator" at the Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology.

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