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Braitenberg vehicles

Who was Valentino Braitenberg and what are Braitenberg vehicles? Watch this video to find out.
Braitenberg vehicles are examples of very simple robot animal-type behaviour, where they have some light sensors. And depending upon whether each sensor detects light or not, so they command the neurons in the very simple brain of the vehicle for the robot to move accordingly. We’ve got three of these, which have been hardwired in particular ways. So the neurons are connected specifically. First example here is a light seeker. So at the moment, it’s not doing anything. But if I shine the light, it moves towards it. Turn the light away, it stops. Come over here. There. Make the robot turn towards the light. If you turn towards the other one, it moves away. No light– stopped. Start. And off it goes.
This is the second robot. Its brain has been wired up to avoid light. When it can’t see light, it just sits there. But if I shine a light on it, it turns away from it. And it’s moving away from the light. Do it again. Like so. If I shine on one sensor, it turns away from that one. Shine on the other sensor, it turns in the opposite direction. Shine on both, he runs away from it. This is the third type. This Braitenberg vehicle has been set up so it will move unless there is light on it. So at the moment, both light sensors can detect the light, so the robot is just there. Turn the light off– it creeps.
The light on– it stops. Off. On. Off– moves. On– stops. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On. Creeping towards the light.

In the middle of the last century, Valentino Braitenberg proposed a form of robot with simple neurons. Born in Italy, Braitenberg was a neuroscientist and cyberneticist who became the director of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany. He is most famous for his thought experiment – the Braitenberg vehicle featured in this course.

The Braitenburg vehicles shown in this video:

  • Have simple ‘eyes’ sensitive to light
  • These are connected to neurons which respond to the eyes
  • Which are connected to motors which drive the robot’s wheels

The vehicles are put in an environment with lights. The robot’s behaviour is set by how the neurons are connected.

  • The robot can be a ‘light seeker’
  • Or a ‘light phobe’ (avoids light)
  • Each behaviour can be ‘aggressive’ or ‘shy’
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