Gallery: SCRATCHbot

Ratlike whiskers give robots night vision

SCRATCHbot Image 1

Borrowing a trick from the lowly rat, the SCRATCHbot uses whiskers instead of cameras to see in the dark.

SCRATCHbot Image 2

Researchers at the University of Bristol in England hope to deploy the poodle-size SCRATCHbot in search-and-rescue missions where vision is impaired, like in mines or smoky rooms.

SCRATCHbot Image 3

SCRATCHbot's 18 whiskers move back and forth five times per second. When a whisker bends, a sensor on its shaft signals software to orient the 'bot toward the object.

SCRATCHbot Image 4

SCRATCHbot uses its whiskers to detect objects around it. Whiskers close to an object move less, while those farther away make wide, sweeping motons to establish the object's exact edges.