Publication date: 2015/5/1
Collaboration between veterinarians and other professionals such as engineers and computer scientists will become important in biorobotics for both scientific achievements and the protection of animal welfare. Particularly, cats have not yet become a significant source of inspiration for new technologies in robotics. This article suggests a novel approach for the investigation of particular aspects of cat morphology, neurophysiology, and behavior aimed at bridging this gap by focusing on the versatile, powerful locomotion abilities of cats and implementing a robotic tool for the measurements of biological parameters of animals and building cat-inspired robotic prototypes. The presented framework suggests the basis for the development of novel hypotheses and models describing biomechanics, locomotion, balancing system, visual perception, as well as learning and adaption of cat motor skills and behavior. In subsequent work, the resulting models will be tested and evaluated in simulated and real experiments and validated with specific experimental data gathered from cats. This methodology has application in several areas including dynamic models and artificial vision systems. From an ethical point of view, this approach is in line with the 3R principles: the detailed and integrated systems will allow us to study a small number of cats (reduction) for the implementation of noninvasive tools such as electromyography and gaze analysis (refinement), which will make the construction of a substitute to experiments on living cats (replacement) easier. For instance, bioinspired prototypes could be used to test how specific visual and physical impairment in cats (up to partial or total blindness, loss of a leg, and so forth) change their walking and jumping abilities. This modus operandi may pave the way for a new generation of research in the veterinary field. Moreover, the measurement tools to be developed will constitute an achievement per se as for the first time visual, muscular, and gait analysis of cats will be integrated, and this will help to improve the rehabilitation procedures for cats and other nonhuman animals.
Link to publication