QUT researcher to use robotic algorithms in neuroscience study

QUT researcher Michael Milford is embarking on a 'Frankenstein-type' research that will see software models of a rat's brain and human eyes be linked together to uncover alternative solutions for existing navigation technology.

A Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher will use computer algorithms, often utilised to enable robots to navigate intelligently, to undertake a new study that could have benefits for manufacturing, environmental management, and aged health.

Dr Michael Milford has described the research as being a "very Frankenstein type of project", where he will take the eyes of a human and link them up with the brain of a rat.

"What we will be doing is using software to create a model of two different brains. One half will be a software model of the map of space that a rodent has, and the other half will be a software model of how human vision works," he said.

Milford noted that a rodent's spatial memory is strong, but has very poor vision, while humans can easily recognise where they are because of eyesight.

"We'll plug in the two pieces of software together on a robot moving around in an environment and see what happens," he said.

Milford said the study will also assist with finding an alternative solution for navigation technology, as existing GPS navigation systems are limited.

"The big problem with today is we're predominately dependent on GPS, which is from satellites, but as soon as you go underground or step in doors, that doesn't work really well anymore. There's also been stuff using Wi-Fi network to work out where you are," he said.

"What we're trying to really do is use this camera-based technology to augment these existing systems so that we have a navigation system in your car or on your phone that works anywhere, as opposed to only in certain conditions."

Milford said the research would also study how the human brain degrades, in particular how it fails to recognise familiar places.

"The brain's spatial navigation capabilities degrade early in diseases like Alzheimer's," he said.

"So it has relevance as a potential study mechanism for studying mental disease, as well."

The interdisciplinary research project involves collaborations between QUT, the University of Queensland, and other international institutions, including Harvard, Boston, and Antwerp universities.

In a separate announcement, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has released an analysis encouraging Australia's galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM industry) to embrace digital technology in order to avoid being left isolated.

The report suggests that the GLAM industry needs to explore new approaches to copyright management that will stimulate creativity, standardise preservation of materials, and exploit potential capabilities of the National Broadband Network for collection and collaboration between organisations in the sector.