Skip main navigation

Machina Speculatrix

Professor William Harwin from the University of Reading introduces his program that demonstrates Grey Walter’s Machina Speculatrix.

In this video William introduces a program that demonstrates Grey Walter’s Machina Speculatrix.

Grey Walter designed his series of ‘robot tortoises’ (so called because of their tortoise shell shaped back) in the 1940’s-1950’s. Although the body shape differs from Braitenberg vehicles, Machina Speculatrix is also a light-seeking robot and shares many of the same features. The ‘robot tortoises’ attracted a great deal of interest at that time, because of their ability to mimic complex behaviour. They continue to play an important role within cybernetics today because they illustrate key ideas in cognitive science (the study of understanding).

These devices work by means of a set of valves instead of ‘neurons’ and a light sensor or ‘eye’ mounted above a wheel at the front. Instead of neurons the robots use valves. One set of valves are designed to drive the robot towards a light The other set of valves are used to turn a wheel if the robot isn’t able to see a light.

If you’d like to play with the specifications of the robot and/or the design of the neurons inside the brain, you can find this program at GitHub.

This article is from the free online

Begin Robotics

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now