A robot with real mouse whiskers could represent an important step towards developing simple robots that navigate by mimicking rodents.

Such whiskered machines could eventually be used to perform repairs in pipes.

The bristly bot, known as AMouse (Artificial Mouse) was built by researchers from the University of Tokyo in Japan and the University of Zurich in Switzerland. It uses real mouse whiskers because simulations have shown these to be the perfect size and shape for the task, but artificial whiskers will also be developed eventually.

Hiroshi Yokoi of the University of Tokyo, and one of the team, says whiskers provide a straightforward way for a robot to navigate through many types of environment. They are a simple sensor for working in the dark, for example, he says.

Yokoi believes rodent-inspired bots might eventually use artificial whiskers to explore confined surroundings and scuttle though pipes to perform repair work. He presented his work at the International conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2004 in Sendai, Japan on Thursday.

“The mouse is a really interesting animal because it lives in such a diverse range of environments,” Yokoi said.

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