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I have now finished work on a much more advanced version of the insect simulator named AnimatLab. AnimatLab is a software tool that combines biomechanical simulation and biologically realistic neural networks. You can build the body of an animal, robot, or other machine and place it in a virtual 3-D world where the physics of its interaction with the environment are accurate and realistic. You can then design a nervous system that controls the behavior of the body in the environment. The software currently has support for simple firing rate neuron models and leaky integrate and fire spiking neural models. In addition, there a number of different synapse model types that can be used to connect the various neural models to produce your nervous system. On the biomechanics side there is support for a variety of different rigid body types, including custom meshes that can be made to match skeletal structures exactly. The biomechanics system also has hill-based muscle and muscle spindle models. These muscle models allow the nervous system to produce movements around joints. In addition, there are also motorized joints for those interested in controlling robots or other biomimetic machines. This allows the user to generate incredibly complicated artificial lifeforms that are based on real biological systems. Best of all AnimatLab is completely free and it includes free C++ source code!

4.4 Exploration

1. Into the Unknown

Now the insect can walk, but only in a straight line. If the insect is going to survive it needs to be able to actively explore its environment. And to do that it is going to have to acquire some new skills. First, it needs to be able to turn so that it is not just walking in a straight line. After that, the insect will need some way to navigate around all of the obstacles that are in its way without getting stuck. And if it does get stuck, it needs to have some way to get itself unstuck. Once it has mastered these abilities then it will be much closer to the goal of being able to survive over an extended period of time.

2. Section Overview

The first topic discussed in this section is turning. As long as the insect is restricted to walking in a straight line it will never be able to explore. After turning is mastered then the concepts for random wandering will be laid out. The next page will talk about what the insect should do when it encounters an obstacle. Finally, the last page will discuss what happens when the insect gets into a bad situation where it is stuck up against a wall or in a corner.

  4.4Exploration
   4.4.1Wandering
   4.4.2Edge Following
   4.4.3Obstacle Avoidance

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