Scientists are breaking new ground as they marry the fields of biology and ICT into fascinating nature-inspired applications. In this case, the EU-funded Biotact project is taking its inspiration from two furry animals – the Norwegian rat and the Etruscan shrew.
Both these species are ‘tactile specialists’, sweeping their facial whiskers around to explore their environments. The project partners are probing the whisking action of these animals and are building two prototype devices to demonstrate their work.
The Biotact sensor will be an active array of hundreds of whisker-like hairs that possess tactile sensing functions beyond any existing gadgets. The second device will be a whiskered robot combining its tactile sensors with artificial intelligence and information processing to seek out, identify, track and capture fast-moving target objects.