A new line of robots has been developed to detect whether artificial whiskers may help a rodent transverse.
UK's Bristol Robotics Laboratory's 'Shrewbot' has been inspired by the Etruscan shrew - one of the world's tiniest mammals - scientists wanted to find out if a robot could explore its environment using touch instead of vision, just as rats, mice and shrews find food in the dark.
Team leader Martin Pearson, who works at the Biotact project, told CNN that he was speculating that whiskers could provide a planetary rover with the ability to feel its way around.
Robotics expert and co-founder of the BRL, Alan Winfield, pointed to study done by Cornell, the University of Chicago, iRobot Corp and Liquidia, which produced a robotic gripper using coffee granules and a latex party balloon.
In 2010 "jamming gripper" researcher Heinrich Jaeger explained in the Cornell Chronicle how the project had opened the door to one of the applications that none of them had originally thought about - a potential alternative for gathering samples on a planetary rover mission.