Robotic road map
|Professor Janet Wiles|
A study of how creatures as diverse as humans and bees navigate provides a pathway for major advances in understanding complex brain systems and helps treat and diagnose mental dysfunctions
A new generation of robots that can learn about their physical environment by using animal navigation skills will be built by UQ scientists who have received a $3.3 million Federal Government grant.
The UQ-led team received one of three Thinking Systems grants announced by the government in July.
The team will study the navigation skills of bees, rodents and humans as a way of understanding the function of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls navigation.
“One thing that makes us special as humans is that we might be using this part of the brain not just to map physical space, which we do very effectively, but also to map the space of ideas,” Team Leader and UQ cognitive scientist Professor Janet Wiles said.
Professor Wiles said results would be transferred into computer models to map ideas.
“Suppose you want Hansard records (the complete record of each day’s parliamentary proceedings) — you have gigabytes of information and what you want is a summary of who spoke on which issue in a particular debate,” she said.
“You can either spend three months reading the document or you can create a map of who spoke and the relationships between it.”
She said her team would use the models to develop a thinking robot that could find its way to a given point and navigate its way back again. The research will also generate new insights into how the brain works and the diagnosis and treatment of mental dysfunctions.
“The study will look at how information is transmitted, received, processed and understood in biological and artificial systems,” she said.
Professor Wiles is from the Division of Complex and Intelligent Systems in UQ’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering.
Four of the most senior scientists at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute – Professor Perry Bartlett, Professor Jason Mattingley, Professor Pankaj Sah and Associate Professor Geoffrey Goodhill – will also work on the project.
Professor David Siddle, UQ’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), said he was delighted the program had been funded.
“The work represented in this proposal is truly inter-disciplinary and this is where significant scientific advances are now being made,” Professor Siddle said.
- FUNDING Australian Government
Professor Janet Wiles www.uq.edu.au/uqresearchers/researcher/wilesjh.html
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