Wild rats live in dark and tiny nooks and crannies. Rather than sight, they need a good sense of touch to get around their environment. This new-generation laboratory rat explores space with its touch and vision sensors. It provides new data on combining information from multiple senses and robot navigation research.
Touch is currently an underutilized sensory mode in robotics, with vision remaining the preferred method of spatial exploration. Drawing inspiration from the animal kingdom, rats live in confined and visually occluded environments where a developed sense of touch rather than vision is advantageous for survival. The Vitabot is an open source biomimetic robot platform capable of interacting with the environment through touch and provides visual and tactile sensory information. In our research on robot navigation, the Vitabot is used as an experimental platform to investigate how to combine multiple sensory modalities and build representations of the world that allow more robust navigation.