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Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Grant for human-like robot scheme
It is hoped the research will give an insight into the brain
A project to build robots that respond and make decisions like humans has been awarded a 2m grant.

University of Sheffield researchers plan to develop the robots in a bid to understand how animals make decisions.

It is hoped the research will also give more of an understanding of how the brain works and be used to design aids for people with disabilities.

Specialists will use knowledge of the nervous system and the latest "chip" technology to create the robots.

'Process information'

The researchers, along with specialists from universities in Bristol, Manchester, Cambridge, Aberystwyth, Oxford and Dundee, will work with BAE Systems to determine how animals process sensory information in order to make a decision.

The REVERB (Reverse Engineering the Invertebrate Brain) project will be led by Dr Kevin Gurney from the University of Sheffield.

He said: "We anticipate the robots will be able to process sensory information from their surroundings in the same way that the human nervous system does, and based on that information, decide how to act.

'Far-reaching consequences'

"The new breed of robots will be able to notice any sudden change in their surroundings, such as something appearing in the periphery of its vision, and will make an almost instantaneous decision as to whether the change warrants any action."

Dr Gurney hopes the project will have "far-reaching consequences" for the way robots will be used in the future.

"Robots that can interpret and respond to their surroundings could, in the future, be used to construct devices to aid people with disabilities, or to help in hostile environments such as deep oceans or space," he explained.

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