An autonomous robot inspired by insect neurophysiology pursues moving features in natural environments

Journal of Neural Engineering
Zahra M BagheriSteven D Wiederman


Many computer vision and robotic applications require the implementation of robust and efficient target-tracking algorithms on a moving platform. However, deployment of a real-time system is challenging, even with the computational power of modern hardware. Lightweight and low-powered flying insects, such as dragonflies, track prey or conspecifics within cluttered natural environments, illustrating an efficient biological solution to the target-tracking problem. We used our recent recordings from 'small target motion detector' neurons in the dragonfly brain to inspire the development of a closed-loop target detection and tracking algorithm. This model exploits facilitation, a slow build-up of response to targets which move along long, continuous trajectories, as seen in our electrophysiological data. To test performance in real-world conditions, we implemented this model on a robotic platform that uses active pursuit strategies based on insect behaviour. Our robot performs robustly in closed-loop pursuit of targets, despite a range of challenging conditions used in our experiments; low contrast targets, heavily cluttered environments and the presence of distracters. We show that the facilitation stage boosts responses to target...Continue Reading


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