Spatial Reasoning in Mobile Robots and Animals

Proceedings of a workshop held during the AISB congress in Manchester, 7th and 8th April 1997.

N. Sharkey and U. Nehmzow (eds.)


We warmly welcome you to this first AISB workshop on robot navigation.

Scientific interest in autonomous mobile robotics has been growing rapidly in recent years, as demonstrated, not least, by the steadily growing number of publications, workshops and conferences. One major reason for this growth (apart from the enormous potential for industrial applications of autonomous mobile robots) is that mobile robots are an important means of investigating and developing theories of animal behaviour, because they provide a physical instantiation of theories, an existence proof.

For mobile agents, both animals and robots, the ability to localise, orientate and plan paths or, in short, the ability to navigate, is of utmost importance. A navigational capability requires not only reactive behaviour, but the ability to interpret sensory information with respect to global goals, intelligent interaction with the environment (e.g. active sensing), and recovery from error. Navigation is therefore an ideal testcase for investigating theories of intelligent behaviour.

Most of the accepted submitted workshop presentations focus on detailed aspects of navigating robots form implementing navigational skills, to developing the necessary computer vision systems to path determination, direction finding and mapbuilding. Nonetheless, we all acknowledge here the importance of animal studies in the evaluation of robot behavious. To this end our invited speaker, Dr. Roswitha Wiltschko, who is an eminent biologist will be discussing probably the most sophisticated navigational system currently in use - that of birds.

A dialogue between ethology and engineering has already developed within the scientific community. One of the purposes of this workshop is to deepen this exchange. It is the organizers' intention to bring together scientists from the broad areas of biology and mobile robotics and to facilitate the necessary cross fertilization to advance the field of robot navigation.

Let us stress here that our idea of a successful workshop will be one in which there is a lot of discussion and questioning of prevalent issues and ideas and that everyone leaves exhaused but full of new ideas. We have therefore allowed longer than usual question times following the talks and we have placed panel discussions at the end of each session. The rest is up to you.

Noel Sharkey and Ulrich Nehmzow

Invited Lecture

Roswitha Wiltschko, The navigational system of birds

Accepted papers