The University of Manchester is developing computer chips to form the "eyes" of next-generation robots with "human" instincts.
The development, part of the Reverb project (Reverse Engineering the Invertebrate Brain) involving BAE Systems and other UK universities, aims to develop technologies which will enable robots to respond to events, and multi-task in similar ways to humans and animals.
As part of the project the University of Manchester will develop the robot's 'Vision Chip'.
Dr Piotr Dudek, from the university's School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: "We are looking to develop an intelligent robotic system which can react to its environment and correct itself without human intervention.
"The Vision Chip will be based on the retina of the human eye and will work in a similar way giving the robot excellent peripheral and central vision.
"Like the human eye, the chip will process very complex images at rapid rates, filtering them through to the robot's 'brain' and enabling it to react in real time."
The Vision Chip will be based on a prototype which Dudek has spent the last seven years developing. It measures one square centimetre and contains 16,384 microprocessors enabling images to be sensed and processed at ultra-high speeds.
The chip will form the integral part of a wider vision system built around a high resolution camera and a lower resolution peripheral camera.
Dr Kevin Gurney, from the University of Sheffield, who is leading the Reverb project, added: "This will enable researchers from a number of disciplines and institutions across the UK to work together to understand how animal nervous systems integrate sensory information in guiding behaviour, and then to transfer these insights to the building of robotic platforms."
BAE Systems believes that the technology could ultimately be used in devices such as its laser-guided Crawler for carrying out tasks such as machining and inspection of aircraft parts. Other ideas include building devices to assist the disabled or infirm.
"Our basic premise is that nature builds systems very well, and if we can mimic those systems then we hope to be able to build better robots which combine the best of the computer and the human worlds," said Dudek.
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