We’re used to thinking about mouse robots that are designed to zip through artificial mazes at race car speeds, but some researchers are busy building robot mice to investigate how mice and rats actually operate in the real world.
Miriam Fend, for example, builds robot mice to study rat and mouse whiskers. The project, with the logical title “Artificial Mouse Project (AMouse)” has a charter that reads-
“. . . aims at building an artificial whisker sensor and mount it on a mobile robot. In collaboration with biologists, we want to address questions about the somatosensory processing, the importance of the morphology of whisker or behaviors, and what features of the system are essential for the amazing performance.”
The AMouse website provides a good overview of how rat/mouse whiskers actually work, why they are so efficient and interesting, and how they can be effectively modeled with a robot. A lot of the terminology is highly academic, so it would be useful to keep an unabridged dictionary handy, and make liberal use of Google to figure out what the AMouse team means when they title a section something like-
“Studying the Influence of Morpholgy for Simple Whisker-Guided Behavior”
“Discriminating Textures by Active Whisking”
Nevertheless, the project pages do provide good information and insights that could be applied to some of the robots we experiment with, especially those with whiskers. There’s also a short video clip of the robot whiskering it’s way around.