Drones and self-driving cars may soon come with ‘spidey’ senses.
That’s according to engineers in America, who believe the unmanned machines would benefit from sensory detectors similar to those often seen in arachinds.
Specifically, they’re referring the hairs on a spider’s legs, which are linked to special neurons called mechanoreceptors, which flag-up danger through vibrations.
If machines had similar characteristics, they’d be able to navigate more effectively in dangerous environments.
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Coming soon ? Drones could soon be enhanced with a technological equivalent of the sensory detectors seen in spiders and bats, which alert them to potential dangers (stock)
Until now, sensor technology hasn’t always been able to process data fast enough, or as smoothly, as nature. But Purdue University’s Andres Arrieta is working on it.
In collaboration with Nanyang Technology University in Singapore and ETH Zürich, he’s helped to build sensors inspired by spiders, bats, birds and other animals, which sift-out real danger from something benign, such as windy weather.
‘There’s no distinction between hardware and software in nature; it’s all interconnected,’ Dr Arrieta said. ‘A sensor is meant to interpret data, as well as collect and filter it.’
Did you know? The hairs on a spider’s legs, which are linked to special neurons called mechanoreceptors, which flag-up danger through vibrations (stock)
WHAT USES DO SPIDER LEGS HAVE?
hairs on a spider’s legs, which are linked to special neurons called mechanoreceptors, which flag-up danger through vibrations.
Spiders are able to journey across water using their legs as sails and silk as an anchor, scientists have found.
They exploit water tension to remain on the surface, and lift up their legs to ‘sail’ in a controlled direction with the help of some wind.
And if they feel like stopping, they can drop a length of silk to slow them down, or use it to anchor themselves to a rock or the shore.
This could explain why spiders have been known to traverse long distances, often turning up on islands a considerable distance from the nearest shore.
The study was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2015.
The idea would be to integrate similar sensors straight into the shell of an autonomous machine, such as an airplane wing or the body of a car.
Better still, it could sense and filter information without needing a power supply.
They would also be able to change shape, which allows electricity to flow through the sensor and carry the most accurate signal. This would inform how the autonomous system should respond.
Potentially, such sensors could be game-changing for ‘driverless’ technology.
‘With the help of machine learning algorithms, we could train these sensors to function autonomously with minimum energy consumption,’ Arrieta said.
‘There are also no barriers to manufacturing these sensors to be in a variety of sizes.’
The research was published in the journal ACS Nanos.