A world first: a robot capable of “hearing” through a lobster’s ear

An unprecedented technological and biological development in Israel and the world has been achieved at Tel Aviv University. For the first time, a dead lobster’s ear has been connected to a robot that receives electrical signals from the ear and responds accordingly. The result is extraordinary: when the researchers clap once, the lobster’s ear hears the sound and the robot moves forward; When the researchers clap twice, the robot moves backwards.

The interdisciplinary study was led by Idan Fishel, a joint master’s student under the joint supervision of Dr. Ben M. Maoz from the Iby and Aladar Fleischman College of Engineering and the Sagol School of Neuroscience, Prof. Yossi Yovel and Prof. Amir Ayali, experts from the School of Zoology and the Sagol School of Neuroscience along with -, Dr. Anton Sheinin, Idan, Yoni Amit and Neta Shavil. The results of the study were published in the prestigious journal Sensors.

The researchers explain that at the beginning of the study, they sought to examine how the advantages of biological systems could be integrated into technological systems and how the senses of the dead lobster could be used as sensors for a robot. “We chose the sense of hearing, because it can easily be compared to existing technologies, in contrast to the sense of smell, for example, where the challenge is much greater,” says Dr. Maoz. “Our task was to replace the robot’s electronic microphone with the ear of a dead insect, use the ear’s ability to detect electrical signals from the environment, in this case vibrations in the air, and, using a special chip, convert the input of the insect in that. of the robot “.

To carry out this unique and unconventional task, the interdisciplinary team (Maoz, Yovel and Ayali) faced several challenges. In the first stage, the researchers built a robot capable of responding to signals it receives from the environment. Then, in a multidisciplinary collaboration, the researchers were able to isolate and characterize the dead lobster ear and keep it alive, that is, functional, long enough to successfully connect it to the robot. In the final stage, the researchers managed to find a way to capture the signals received by the lobster’s ear in a way that could be used by the robot. At the end of the process, the robot was able to “hear” the sounds and respond accordingly.

“Prof. Ayali’s laboratory has extensive experience working with lobsters, and they have developed the skills to isolate and characterize the ear,” explains Dr. Maoz. “Professor Yovel’s lab built the robot and developed a code that allows the robot to respond to electrical auditory signals. And my lab has developed a special device, Ear-on-a-Chip, that allows the ear to stay alive throughout The experiment, supplying oxygen and food to the organ, while allowing electrical signals to exit the lobster’s ear and amplify and transmit to the robot.

“In general, biological systems have a great advantage over technological systems, both in terms of sensitivity and in terms of energy consumption. This initiative by researchers from Tel Aviv University opens the door to sensory integrations between robots and insects. , and it can make redundant robotics developments much more cumbersome and expensive.

“It should be understood that biological systems use negligible energy compared to electronic systems. They are miniature and therefore also extremely economical and efficient. For comparison, a laptop consumes around 100 watts per hour, while that the human brain consumes about 20 watts a day. Nature is much more advanced than we are, so we should use it. The principle we have demonstrated can be used and applied to other senses, such as smell, sight and touch For example, some animals have amazing abilities to detect explosives or drugs; creating a robot with a biological nose could help us preserve human life and identify criminals in a way that is not possible today. Some animals know how detect disease. Others can feel earthquakes. The sky is the limit. ”


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