Ulster University explores intelligent systems

MARCH 28--Electronics and computing engineers from the University of Ulster (Londonderry, Ireland; www.ulster.ac.uk) have teamed up with neuroscientists, physicists, and biologists from across Europe to incorporate human senses into intelligent computer systems.

Mar 28th, 2006

Londonderry, Ireland; www.ulster.ac.uk) have teamed up with neuroscientists, physicists, and biologists from across Europe to incorporate human senses into intelligent computer systems. The multidisciplinary team will attempt to replicate in silicon the brain's ability to capture data from the senses of touch and sight. In biological life forms, the brain can combine information from different senses to create a representation of its surroundings.

"The objective is to study sensory fusion in biological systems and then translate that knowledge into the creation of intelligent computational machines," says Martin McGinnity, director of the Intelligent Systems Engineering Laboratory (ISEL). McGinnity was the coordinator of the EU's Future and Emerging Technologies-funded SENSEMAKER project, which has now been completed. Other partners in the project included academics from Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland; www.tcd.ie), two CNRS laboratories in France, and the University of Heidelberg (Heidelberg, Germany; www.uni-heidelberg.de).

"The ultimate aim is to create machines that can capture information through sensory perception, process it in a way similar to the brain, and then act intelligently on that information. The research will have practical application in a range of areas including robotics and industrial automation," he says.

"The results of the research project are very promising--this is a very complex problem area but we have made some progress. We have created a theoretical model on how aspects of the process work and produced a demonstration system in hardware and software that merged vision and touch--albeit at a very basic level. In the future, we hope to create models that are more faithful to biology. Once the models are correct we may implement better, more realistic systems."

Two other projects will carry aspects of the scientists' work further. The FACETS project, also funded by the EU thorough its Future Emerging Technologies program, will continue to explore machine perception, focusing on vision. Meanwhile, ISEL is engaged in a proposal to create a Centre of Excellence in Intelligent Systems for the creation of intelligent systems, including sensory fusion, learning, adaptation, self-organization, the implementation of large-scale biological neural sub-systems in hardware and distributed computational intelligence.


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