Monday, March 12, 2012

Robosquirrel in the Spotlight

Last month I was asked to write a guest article for Hizook.com, a robotics website run by postdoc Travis Deyle (Duke University). He was excited because he had just read an article in Robotics and Automation magazine written by the collective minds who developed RoboSquirrel. In his words, he had "never even considered using a robot to research animal behavior" because it was so far removed from what he normally does as a robotic engineer. However, biorobotics have been in the behavior business for decades starting with crude models of honey bees in the 1980s. Today with advancements in technology and decreasing costs scientists are able to collaborate with engineers to develop more sophisticated robotic models, and test hypotheses that were once impossible to test empirically. RoboSquirrel has allowed us to do just this. We can experimentally test the function of squirrel tail-flagging by manipulating the robot's 'behavior', something that could never be done with a live squirrel. For more information on RoboSquirrel and links to other animal robots, check out my guest article on Hizook. Also, check back regularly on Strike Rattle & Roll because RoboSquirrel 2.0 will be deployed this May and RoboKangarooRat trials will commence later this summer.

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