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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Use of Robotic Animals to Increase Interest in Comparative Psychology


This project focuses on the use of robots to increase student interest in comparative psychology. Robots facilitate the development of critical thinking skills, problem solving ability, and apparatus design. Moreover, as behavioral apparatuses become more sophisticated, the use of robots can help increase the interactions between comparative psychologists and engineers. We provide details on how to construct a robotic squirrel. Our squirrel is a ground-based motion robot driven at variable speeds utilizing slip steering. It supports an on-board video system to record and monitor various behavioral patterns of small animals, primarily squirrels in this project, from a distance. It also includes an audio system, which can record and playback sounds to the animals, and a simple robot arm-like structure with two degree of freedom controlled by servos. An Android smart phone application was developed to control the motion and speed of the robot and other operational controls in the system, such as record, playback control, and movement of the robot arm. We suggest that robots can be used as a source for independent projects, be incorporated into a class lecture on behavioral apparatuses, and/or be designed as a class project.

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