A new robot can use bat-like echolocation to navigate its surroundings.

The fully-autonomous terrestrial robot, named Robat, can move through a novel environment by mapping it solely based on sound.

Bats use echolocation to map novel environments while simultaneously navigating through them by emitting sound and extracting information from the echoes reflected from objects in their surroundings.

Many theoretical frameworks have been proposed to explain how bats routinely solve one of the most challenging problems in robotics, but few attempts have been made to build an actual robot that mimics their abilities.

Robat has an ultrasonic speaker that mimics the mouth, producing frequency modulated chirps at a rate typically used by bats, as well as two ultrasonic microphones that mimic ears.

Robat delineates the borders of objects it encounters, and classifies them using an artificial neural network, thus creating a rich, accurate map of its environment while avoiding obstacles.

For example, when reaching a dead end, the robot uses its classification abilities to determine whether it was blocked by a wall or by a plant through which it could pass.

“To our best knowledge, our Robat is the first fully autonomous bat-like biologically plausible robot that moves through a novel environment while mapping it solely based on echo information - delineating the borders of objects and the free paths between them and recognizing their type,” said Itamar Eliakim of Tel Aviv University.

“We show the great potential of using sound for future robotic applications.”

More details are accessible here, and a demonstration is available in the video below: