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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!

4.5 Feeding

1. Me Hungry!

Ah food. Everyone likes to eat. Some of us, myself included, like it too much. Well, now it is the virtual insects turn to get some chow. However, there is still a lot of work to do before it can go biting into any succulent food scraps. Before the insect can eat, it must first be able to locate the food. It will need to use chemical odor sensors to smell the food and change its orientation so that it goes towards the food. Then the insect needs someway to know when it needs to eat. It needs to be able to get hungry. Once these challenges are overcome then it is still going to have to deal with integrating these new behaviors with the its older ones. For example, what happens if the insect is hungry, but there is a wall between it and the food it wants? Once the insect finally reaches the food then it will have to stop and eat until it is full. And it will have to do all of this before it finally runs out of energy and dies. Quite a bit to ask from a simple simulation.

2. Section Overview

The first page in this section begins by talking about finding food by the odor. It then moves on to implementing hunger, and integrating all of these behaviors. The next page talks about how the insect actually stops over the food and takes bites of it until it is full. The next topic is about death, specifically what causes it in the case of the virtual insect. Finally, this section ends with a brief discussion of a behavior that was seen in actual runs of the system. The insect could occasionally get caught in a tight loop around its food and die. This page talks about the modifications that were made to get out of this type of situation.

  4.5Feeding
   4.5.1Appetitive Controller
   4.5.2Eating
   4.5.3Dying
   4.5.4Food Vulture

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