Low cost electronic circuit for soft robots

The main aim of this system is to design a low cost and affordable electronic circuit for pneumatic soft robots. The system is composed by two main parts, the embedded control board and the design of housing for the pneumatic components. Figure 1 shows the block diagram of the pneumatic control setup. The input signal is used to set the desired pressure. For control of soft actuators by a microcontroller, 1-way/2-position normally closed solenoid valves are used, (2 valves are required for one actuator) one for inflation (inlet solenoid valve) and the other for deflation (exhaust solenoid valve). Solenoid valves control the flow of air into and out of the actuators. To measure pressure, an amplified pressure sensor (0 – 5psi pressure range) with analogue interface was used and a 10-bit ADC on the microcontroller is used to read the pressure in form of voltage readings.

Figure 1 Block diagram of circuit

Figure 1 Block diagram of circuit

Figure 2 Arrangement of valves and pump

Figure 2 Arrangement of valves and pump

Figure 2 shows the arrangement of air pump and valves for the actuation of soft robots in order to carry out inflation and deflation cycles. As shown, it consists of an air pump to act as the pressure source; two solenoid valves (one acts as an air supply valve while the other as an exhaust valve) and a pressure sensor to measure the air pressure in the soft actuator.
Compressed air from the pump passes through the air supply solenoid valve and changes to output pressure when the air supply solenoid valve turns ON. In this way, air from the supply pump passes through the air supply solenoid valve and changes to output pressure. A PWM (Pulse-Width Modulated) output is then produced on the output pin of the MCU to switch ON/OFF the exhaust valve in order to produce an output pressure equal to the desired pressure. The exhaust valve is also used to deflate the soft actuator – this is essential for crawling motions of soft robots. The output pressure is fed back to the microcontroller via the pressure sensor. This is to check if the desired pressure has become equal to the output pressure. Pressure corrections then occur to produce an output pressure that is equal to the set pressure. Once the pressure sensor has sensed that the desired pressure is equal to the output pressure, the exhaust valve will turn OFF (close) in order to maintain a constant pressure.

Figure 3 Single channel soft robot actuated by circuit for bending motion

Figure 3 Single channel soft robot actuated by circuit for bending motion

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BEL joins Science Museum Lates

On the 25th March, Brain Embodiment Lab presented for the first time its research at the Science Museum Wednesday Nights Lates events on body enhancement. In our exposition we explored the theme of interfacing between human and machines and presented research carried out in BEL via interactive demonstrations. The BEL PhD students and academics presented the demos on brain computer interface (BCI) controlled virtual avatar, BCI game control and on soft electrodes for brain machine interfaces, and answered visitors questions during a very busy night – nearly 4000 guest visited Science Museum for the event!


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BEL Presentations

This week’s presenter is Mr. Timothee Dubuc, 2nd year PhD student from BEL, presents ‘Retinal modelling: part of an artificial eye representation.’

The abstract:

‘Intricate as is it, the human eye displays both dynamic and spatial dispositions evolved to extract relevant images features. From a neuroscience point of view, its retina is but a neural network and has been long studied out of its context. We here present and discuss the first steps of the creation of an artificial retina aimed to explore the spatio-temporal computations underlying early vision processes. We emphasize the inscription of this model into a spatial and optic context enabling its stimulation by natural image.​’

The meeting is at 2 pm, in Sullivan Room, SSE, Wednesday 25th.

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Brain Embodiment Lab is joining Computer Intelligence Conference at the University of London

            AISB_50The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour (AISB) is celebrating it’s 50 years since the founding of the society and sixty years since the death of Alan Turing, founding father of both Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence with a convention to be held at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK from the 1st to the 4th April 2014.

This year, the Brain Embodiment Lab will be represented by Mr Daniel Dean, who will give a presentation about his current PhD project on “Recursive Least Squares for Echo State Network Pool Damage Compensation” with the contribution of the supervisors Prof. Slawomir J. Nasuto and Prof. Kevin Warwick. Daniel’s presentation will start at 16:30pm, at Room 305 in the convention center on the first day of the event.

For more general information about the convention and the schedule of the whole three day event please check the website of the event.

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Ioannis Zoulias’s Six Minute Science Slam

This year University of Reading was the first time host of the Science Slam on Saturday, 22nd March which is an entertaining presentation competition where scientists present their mind-boggling work in a comprehensible and accessible way in the 6 minutes. Ioannis D. Zoulias,the PhD student from Brain Embodiment Lab, was one of the presenters at the event and he successfully delivered his presentation to the audience. To watch his funny and interactive presentation please watch the video below.

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Our very own new Dr. Anthony Portelli

Congratulations to Dr. Anthony J Portelli after successfully defendingDSCF0092 his Thesis just today. His research title was “Bio-Potential Monitoring for Ubiquitous Applications”. Anthony’s thesis was supervised jointly by Prof. Slawomir J. Nasuto and Prof. J. Douglass Saddy and his viva panel consisted of Prof Steven Schiff of Penn State and our own Yoshi Hayashi.

He will now focus all his energies on his current postdoctoral project at Brain Embodiment Lab, University of Reading.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish him all the best in his future studies.

Posted in Staff Changes

From his earlier years to his future projections: Prof. Slawomir J. Nasuto

Director of Brain Embodiment Lab Prof. Slawomir J. Nasuto recently gave an interview to Scoop.co.nz, in their definition ‘New Zealand’s leading news resource for news-makers and the people that influence the news’. In this interview he mentioned details of his early personal life as well as his ground-breaking research on “animats”, his thoughts on how robots can make human-like decisions and what is planned for the new wet lab located in the Brain Embodiment Lab at the University of Reading under his direction. For further details of his excellent work the interview can be found here.

Also the slides of the presentation, Prof. Nasuto gave at 2013-09 PT-AI Bergamo conference in Italy can be found from here .

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Invited Talk – Matthew Spencer

Matthew Spencer will be speaking at the Whitehead Lecture at Goldsmiths College on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, at 4pm. Check out the poster for details!symbols_and_dynamics

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Publication: Zombie mouse in a Chinese room

chinese_mouseWe have a new publication in Philosophy & Technology entitled Zombie mouse in a Chinese room.


John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument (CRA) purports to demonstrate that syntax is not sufficient for semantics, and hence that because computation cannot yield understanding, the computational theory of mind, which equates the mind to an information processing system based on formal computations, fails. In this paper, we use the CRA, and the debate that emerged from it, to develop a philosophical critique of recent advances in robotics and neuroscience. We describe results from a body of work that contributes to blurring the divide between biological and artificial systems: so-called animats, autonomous robots that are controlled by biological neural tissue, and what may be described as remote-controlled rodents, living animals endowed with augmented abilities provided by external controllers.

We argue that, even though at first sight these chimeric systems may seem to escape the CRA, on closer analysis they do not. We conclude by discussing the role of the body-brain dynamics in the processes that give rise to genuine understanding of the world, in line with recent proposals from enactive cognitive science.

DOI: 10.1007/s13347-014-0150-2

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Welcome to the New Lecturers of BEL

As a part of  the academic investment programme of the University of Reading, the new lecturers of Brain Embodiments Lab, Dr. Etienne Benoît Roesch, Dr.Yoshikatsu Hayashi and  Dr. Evangelos Delivopoulos finished their internal training in this week together with new lecturers of School of System Engineering; Prof. Ying Zheng and Prof. Ingo Bojak and 40 new lecturers from different research field of  the University of Reading. This training is part of a multi-million pound project designed to strengthen key areas of research, helping to find answers to some of society’s biggest issues with the help of the academicians coming from well known universities of all over the world. We congratulate our new lecturers for their success on finishing the course and send our warm welcome to them. For the more information please visit the university web site.


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