Towards a bionic bat: A biomimetic investigation of active sensing, Doppler-shift estimation, and ear morphology design for mobile robots.
So-called CF-FM bats are highly mobile creatures who emit long calls in which much of the energy is concentrated in a single frequency. These bats face sensor interpretation problems very similar to those of mobile robots provided with ultrasonic sensors, while navigating in cluttered environments. This dissertation presents biologically inspired engineering on the use of narrowband Sonar in mobile robotics. It replicates, using robotics as a modelling medium, how CF-FM bats process and use the constant frequency part of their emitted call for several tasks, aiming to improve the design and use of narrowband ultrasonic sensors for mobile robot navigation. The experimental platform for the work is RoBat, the biomimetic sonarhead designed by Peremans and Hallam, mounted on a commercial mobile platform as part of the work reported in this dissertation. System integration, including signal processing capabilities inspired by the bat’s auditory system and closed loop control of both sonarhead and mobile base movements, was designed and implemented. The result is a versatile tool for studying the relationship between environmental features, their acoustic correlates and the cues computable from them, in the context of both static, and dynamic real-time closed loop, behaviour. Two models of the signal processing performed by the bat’s cochlea were implemented, based on sets of bandpass filters followed by full-wave rectification and low-pass filtering. One filterbank uses Butterworth filters whose centre frequencies vary linearly across the set. The alternative filterbank uses gammatone filters, with centre frequencies varying non-linearly across the set. Two methods of estimating Doppler-shift from the return echoes after cochlear signal processing were implemented. The first was a simple energy-weighted average of filter centre frequencies. The second was a novel neural network-based technique. Each method was tested with each of the cochlear models, and evaluated in the context of several dynamic tasks in which RoBat was moved at different velocities towards stationary echo sources such as walls and posts. Overall, the performance of the linear filterbank was more consistent than the gammatone. The same applies to the ANN, with consistently better noise performance than the weighted average. The effect of multiple reflectors contained in a single echo was also analysed in terms of error in Doppler-shift estimation assuming a single wider reflector. Inspired by the Doppler-shift compensation and obstacle avoidance behaviours found in CF-FM bats, a Doppler-based controller suitable for collision detection and convoy navigation in robots was devised and implemented in RoBat. The performance of the controller is satisfactory despite low Doppler-shift resolution caused by lower velocity of the robot when compared to real bats. Barshan’s and Kuc’s 2D object localisation method was implemented and adapted to the geometry of RoBat’s sonarhead. Different TOF estimation methods were tested, the parabola fitting being the most accurate. Arc scanning, the ear movement technique to recover elevation cues proposed by Walker, and tested in simulation by her, Peremans and Hallam, was here implemented on RoBat, and integrated with Barshan’s and Kuc’s method in a preliminary narrowband 3D tracker. Finally, joint work with Kim, K¨ampchen and Hallam on designing optimal reflector surfaces inspired by the CF-FM bat’s large pinnae is presented. Genetic algorithms are used for improving the current echolocating capabilities of the sonarhead for both arc scanning and IID behaviours. Multiple reflectors around the transducer using a simple ray light-like model of sound propagation are evolved. Results show phase cancellation problems and the need of a more complete model of wave propagation. Inspired by a physical model of sound diffraction and reflections in the human concha a new model is devised and used to evolve pinnae surfaces made of finite elements. Some interesting paraboloid shapes are obtained, improving performance significantly with respect to the bare transducer.