Taking a page from the ninja playbook, researchers at the CSIRO Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Brisbane have developed a robot that is able to listen for noises and use them as distractions to mask the sound of its own movements as it creeps up on a target.
Using a sensitive on-board microphone, the unnamed bot can listen for sounds that will serve as a distraction and then determine how long they are likely to persist so it can calculate how far it can discreetly travel. The chirp of a bird might only last a mere second, but an oncoming vehicle provides plenty of time to manoeuvre to a new hiding spot.
The robot also uses an on-board camera and laser scanner to map its surroundings and spot the best places to move to hide its acoustic signature. Rolling across loose gravel in a cave would produce a lot of noise and echos, but wide open areas with solid terrain would help keep its movements considerably quieter. And for applications like nature photography, being able to sneak up on a dangerous animal while it's roaring or making a lot of noise would provide an opportunity to capture footage most other autonomous vehicles could not. [CSIRO via Dvice via New Scientist]