Robot Prompts New Look at Using Sonar in Exploration

Randolph the Robot, a sonar device inspired by the ability of bats and dolphins to use echoes for locating prey, has some experts reevaluating the merits of sound waves versus camera vision for exploring new environments.

The robot, created by Yale University electrical engineering professor Roman Kuc, is so sensitive that it can tell whether a tossed coin has come up heads or tails, according to research published recently in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

The design could prove easier and less costly than camera vision for identifying an authorized customer at an automated teller machine, detecting production flaws on an assembly line or helping someone who is paralyzed interact with a computer.

The Yale robot is equipped with three Polaroid electrostatic transducers, like those found in autofocus cameras or acoustical tape measures, that use high-speed ultrasound impulses to locate and identify objects.

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