What if drones and self-driving cars had the creep “spider sensors” of Spider-Man? Then they might actually detect and avoid objects better, because they would process sensory information faster.
Researchers wouldn’t have to create a radioactive spider to give autonomous machines superhero sensing abilities. Instead, Purdue researchers have built sensors inspired by spiders, bats, birds and other animals, whose actual spidey senses are nerve endings linked to special neurons called mechanoreceptors.
The nerve endings mechanosensors only detect and process information essential to an animal’s survival. They come in the form of hair, cilia or feathers.
The idea would be to integrate similar sensors straight into the shell of an autonomous machine, such as an airplane wing or the body of a car. The researchers demonstrated. In real life, these forces would be associated with a certain object that an autonomous machine needs to avoid.
But the sensors they developed don’t just sense and filter at a very fast rate but they also compute, and without needing a power supply.
“There’s no distinction between hardware and software in nature; it’s all interconnected,” Arrieta said. “A sensor is meant to interpret data, as well as collect and filter it.”
“With the help of machine learning algorithms, we could train these sensors to function autonomously with minimum energy consumption,” Arrieta said. “There are also no barriers to manufacturing these sensors to be in a variety of sizes.”