SCRATCHbot: Active Tactile Sensing in a Whiskered Mobile Robot
The rodent vibrissal (whisker) system is one of the most widely investigated model sensory systems in neuroscience owing to its discrete organisation from the sensory apparatus (the whisker shaft) all the way to the sensory cortex, its ease of manipulation, and its presence in common laboratory animals. Neurobiology shows us that the brain nuclei and circuits that process vibrissal touch signals, and that control the positioning and movement of the whiskers, form a neural architecture that is a good model of how the mammalian brain, in general, co-ordinates sensing with action. In this paper we describe SCRATCHbot, a biomimetic robot based on the rat whisker system, and show how this robot is providing insight into the operation of neural systems underlying vibrissal control, and is helping us to understand the active sensing strategies that animals employ in order to boost the quality and quantity of information provided by their sensory organs.
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