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Robotic Elephant Trunk Can Learn Tasks on Its Own

By New Scientist

April 19, 2021

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Researchers at Germany's University of Tubingen used three-dimensional (3D) printing to create a robotic elephant trunk that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to emulate how sensory input triggers synaptic chain reactions in organic brains.

Tubingen's Sebastian Otte and colleagues assembled the device from modules with gear-driving motors that tilt up to 40 degrees in two axes.

The AI was trained on examples of the motor inputs required to move the trunk in certain ways, and tests showed it could direct the tip of the trunk within less than a centimeter from a target.

The robot is a proof of concept of a spiking neural network algorithm, which works like an actual brain in which certain inputs cause a chain reaction of firing synapses, while requiring orders of magnitude less computational power and energy.

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