Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human-like Vision Lets Robots Navigate Naturally

Date:
July 17, 2009
Source:
ICT Results
Summary:
A robotic vision system that mimics key visual functions of the human brain promises to let robots maneuver quickly and safely through cluttered environments, and to help guide the visually impaired.

An inside view of VisGuide with the electronic circuits on main board. The video signals are sent via cables to a light- weight micro-PC that is carried for the user.
Credit: Decisions in Motion Project (www.decisionsinmotion.org)

A robotic vision system that mimics key visual functions of the human brain promises to let robots manoeuvre quickly and safely through cluttered environments, and to help guide the visually impaired.

It’s something any toddler can do – cross a cluttered room to find a toy.

It's also one of those seemingly trivial skills that have proved to be extremely hard for computers to master. Analysing shifting and often-ambiguous visual data to detect objects and separate their movement from one’s own has turned out to be an intensely challenging artificial intelligence problem.

Three years ago, researchers at the European-funded research consortium Decisions in Motion (http://www.decisionsinmotion.org/) decided to look to nature for insights into this challenge.

In a rare collaboration, neuro- and cognitive scientists studied how the visual systems of advanced mammals, primates and people work, while computer scientists and roboticists incorporated their findings into neural networks and mobile robots.

The approach paid off. Decisions in Motion has already built and demonstrated a robot that can zip across a crowded room guided only by what it “sees” through its twin video cameras, and are hard at work on a head-mounted system to help visually impaired people get around.

“Until now, the algorithms that have been used are quite slow and their decisions are not reliable enough to be useful,” says project coordinator Mark Greenlee. “Our approach allowed us to build algorithms that can do this on the fly, that can make all these decisions within a few milliseconds using conventional hardware.”

How do we see movement?

The Decisions in Motion researchers used a wide variety of techniques to learn more about how the brain processes visual information, especially information about movement.

These included recording individual neurons and groups of neurons firing in response to movement signals, functional magnetic resonance imaging to track the moment-by-moment interactions between different brain areas as people performed visual tasks, and neuropsychological studies of people with visual processing problems.

The researchers hoped to learn more about how the visual system scans the environment, detects objects, discerns movement, distinguishes between the independent movement of objects and the organism’s own movements, and plans and controls motion towards a goal.

One of their most interesting discoveries was that the primate brain does not just detect and track a moving object; it actually predicts where the object will go.

“When an object moves through a scene, you get a wave of activity as the brain anticipates its trajectory,” says Greenlee. “It’s like feedback signals flowing from the higher areas in the visual cortex back to neurons in the primary visual cortex to give them a sense of what’s coming.”

Greenlee compares what an individual visual neuron sees to looking at the world through a peephole. Researchers have known for a long time that high-level processing is needed to build a coherent picture out of a myriad of those tiny glimpses. What's new is the importance of strong anticipatory feedback for perceiving and processing motion.

“This proved to be quite critical for the Decisions in Motion project,” Greenlee says. “It solves what is called the ‘aperture problem’, the problem of the neurons in the primary visual cortex looking through those little peepholes.”

Building a better robotic brain

Armed with a better understanding of how the human brain deals with movement, the project’s computer scientists and roboticists went to work. Using off-the-shelf hardware, they built a neural network with three levels mimicking the brain’s primary, mid-level, and higher-level visual subsystems.

They used what they had learned about the flow of information between brain regions to control the flow of information within the robotic “brain”.

“It’s basically a neural network with certain biological characteristics,” says Greenlee. “The connectivity is dictated by the numbers we have from our physiological studies.”

The computerised brain controls the behaviour of a wheeled robotic platform supporting a moveable head and eyes, in real time. It directs the head and eyes where to look, tracks its own movement, identifies objects, determines if they are moving independently, and directs the platform to speed up, slow down and turn left or right.

Greenlee and his colleagues were intrigued when the robot found its way to its first target – a teddy bear – just like a person would, speeding by objects that were at a safe distance, but passing nearby obstacles at a slower pace.

”That was very exciting,” Greenlee says. “We didn’t program it in – it popped out of the algorithm.”

In addition to improved guidance systems for robots, the consortium envisions a lightweight system that could be worn like eyeglasses by visually or cognitively impaired people to boost their mobility. One of the consortium partners, Cambridge Research Systems, is developing a commercial version of this, called VisGuide.

Decisions in Motion received funding from the ICT strand of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research. The project’s work was featured in a video by the New Scientist in February this year.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ICT Results. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

ICT Results. "Human-like Vision Lets Robots Navigate Naturally." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630075616.htm>.
ICT Results. (2009, July 17). Human-like Vision Lets Robots Navigate Naturally. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630075616.htm
ICT Results. "Human-like Vision Lets Robots Navigate Naturally." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630075616.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Heartbleed Hack Leads To Arrest

Heartbleed Hack Leads To Arrest

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A 19-year-old computer science student has been arrested in relation to a data breach of 900 social insurance numbers from Canada's revenue agency. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple Rumored To Introduce Song ID Service In Next iOS Build

Apple Rumored To Introduce Song ID Service In Next iOS Build

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) Sources close to Apple told Bloomberg the company plans to introduce an integrated song identification service during the launch of its next iOS. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yahoo's Ousted COO Gets $58M Severance Package

Yahoo's Ousted COO Gets $58M Severance Package

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) According to SEC filings, Yahoo gave ousted COO Henrique de Castro a $58 million severance package. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins