Robots with virtual brains
This is the part of the HBP where virtual brain models meet real or simulated robot bodies.
The human brain is one of the most astonishing, incredibly complex and tremendously powerful creations of nature. But what makes is so efficient, so flexible, so intelligent? We know it’s not just the sophisticated “design”, but also the ability to constantly learn. The brain makes the body perform an action, then the body perceives the results of this action, and finally the brain interprets the results and changes its behaviour accordingly, so that the next action can be more effective.
The Neurorobotics Platform allows researchers to give any simulated brain model its own “body” — virtual or even real — and explore how it controls movement, reacts to stimulus and learns in a virtual environment. It has been shown that these robots, given a lot more perception, can construct their own effective and powerful learning rules, almost like living creatures.
Linking a simulated brain to a robotic body also provides a powerful mechanism for testing the fidelity of the brain simulation. If the robot body/simulated brain combination behaves similarly to a real animal in a given test environment, that would help to establish the validity of the brain simulation.
The Platform is public, online, and available for all researchers who want to test their brain models or to build the brain-inspired robots of the future.
The team is creating a complete virtual mouse, with eyes, whiskers, skin, a brain, and a body, with bones and muscles that function like its natural counterpart. An actual robot mouse is also under construction.
The HBP hopes that the Neurorobotics Platform will completely change the way new robots are designed. Using the platform, they can now be created and tested virtually — quickly and reliably — so that by the time they are ready to be built as real machines they have already learned so much so as to be really intelligent.
There is also great potential in using simulated brain-inspired systems, such as the “virtual mouse”, in neuroscience and medical research.
For Everybody - Everywhere
Run simulations from anywhere without any installation. Take one of our detailed 3D robot models and connect them to brain models and test them in a virtual environment. Launch a simulation, edit the parameters and enter the world of neurorobotics.
The Neurorobotics Platform (NRP) is built on open source technology. Find the source code on bitbucket.
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Mission Statement Neurorobotics
(Closed Loop Studies): it links the real world with the “virtual world of simulation” by connecting physical sensors (e.g., cameras) in the real world to a simulated brain. This brain controls a body which, in turn, can impact and alter the real world environment. Robotics, therefore, provides the potential to perform realistic “closed-loop-studies”: perception – cognition – action. This will establish a whole new field of robot design: virtual prototyping of robots that can then be readily built as real machines and function like the simulated ones. This will not only speed up robot development by orders of magnitude, it will also dramatically improve the testing and verification of their behaviour within a wide variety of circumstances.
(Brain-Derived Products): it links brain research to information technology by using scientific results (e.g., data, and models of behaviour) obtained in brain research and refining it to a readiness level where it can be used by commercial companies and easily taken up and rapidly turned into new categories of products, e.g., using specialized neuromorphic hardware, also currently being developed by HBP. This will allow novel control technologies that achieve robustness and adaptivity far beyond todays algorithmic controls… and ones that actually rival biologic systems.
(Virtualised Brain Research): it links information technology to brain research by designing new tools for brain researchers, with which they can design experiments and then carry them out in simulation. For example, one can study a completely simulated animal’s navigation or sensorimotor skills as it operates in a completely simulated environment (e.g., a maze or a straight or sinusoidal vertical path), and the signals of the simulated brain will be recorded in real-time for immediate analysis. These same principles can be applied to humans and humanoid avatars, allowing bold and fruitful research on degenerative brain diseases, for example.