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Engineers Program Tiny Robots to Move, Think Like Insects

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Each RoboBee has a 3-centimeter wingspan and weighs only 80 milligrams.

Cornell University engineers are studying a new type of programming that mimics an insect's brain functions.

Credit: Cornell Chronicle

Researchers at Cornell University are studying a new type of programming that mimics an insect's brain functions.

The amount of computing power required for a robot to sense a gust of wind, adjust its flight, and plan a path to make a landing would require it to carry a desktop-size computer, but the Cornell researchers want to use neuromorphic computer chips to shrink the payload.

Neuromorphic chips process spikes of electrical current that fire in complex combinations, similar to how neurons fire inside a brain.

The researchers are developing a new class of "event-based" sensing and control algorithms that mimic neural activity and can be implemented on neuromorphic chips. The chips would require less power than traditional processors, letting developers pack more computation into the same payload.

"This network is capable of learning in real time to account for irregularities in the robot introduced during manufacturing, which make the robot significantly more challenging to control," says Cornell's Taylor Clawson.

From Cornell Chronicle
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