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'Animals are amazing...'
'..and the more we find out about them, the more amazing they seem.'
That feels pretty harsh.
'That's why scientists all over the world
'are trying their best to copy them...'
This is the future.
'..making brand-new inventions...'
'..based on what animals can do.
'Some are astounding...'
We've just dived under the sea.
This is not at all pleasant.
Yes! It's gone!
'..but they're also inspired by the miracles of nature.
'Episode five -
'how a seal's whiskers can help a truck drive itself.
'Whiskers are remarkable tools and we can prove it.
'All we need is a remote-controlled submarine, a friendly seal
'and a blindfold.'
-How are you going to put a blindfold on a seal?
-Oh, that's easy.
-We trained this and now he's jumping through the mask.
-No, he's not.
He jumps through it.
'Having jumped into his blindfold,
'Henry obligingly moves into his starting position.
'Sven puts headphones over his ears,
'so Henry can't see, and as long as those headphones are on,
'he can't hear.'
-OK, so when you say "go", I go.
My job is to control the model submarine.
I can send it anywhere in the pool.
And Henry knows that if he finds it, he'll get a fish.
But he'll only get the chance to start his search
when I've stopped the sub completely,
so there's no motor noise or splashing to help him locate it.
OK, Henry. Do your stuff.
-He's found it! He found it blindfold.
He's not using his eyes - he can't. There's nothing to hear,
because it's not running any more, I've stopped it. That's astonishing.
'And it looks like Henry wants to play again.'
But it doesn't matter how many times we do it,
or what route I choose for the sub. Henry finds it every single time.
-Oh, that was fantastic.
And it's not just the fact he finds it that's impressive -
it's the way he finds it.
He swims the exact same route as the sub.
What a clever boy.
'Believe it or not, Henry is finding the sub with his whiskers.
'They're so sensitive that they're picking up the underwater trail
'the sub has left behind.'
That's amazing. Do it again.
And he swam the exact trail of where it had been.
This whole concept of whiskers letting you feel your way around
is something that I can use myself.
This is a very big car and, historically,
I have struggled to put the thing away, back it into the garage.
Not any more,
because what I have here is a set of purpose-built whiskers.
I'll be able to feel my way into the garage.
Ah, this is going to be brilliant. Right, let me explain.
These are the whiskers, obviously.
When it encounters, let's say, a garage door or the wall at the back,
it moves. And when it does that,
it moves inside this little loop of metal,
which touches this coil on the outside of the whisker, like that.
And I can demonstrate with the control box, here. You see?
That whisker's touching, it lights up.
And that's pretty much how a real whisker works.
The bristle itself has no feeling at all, but the movement
against nerve endings at its base sends signals back to the brain.
Right, that's fitted. This is brilliant.
There's actually no technology here that they didn't have in 1934,
so I don't know why they didn't fit it as standard.
Right, I'm slightly scared all of a sudden.
It's at this point you should probably know that this car
used to drive the Queen Mum about.
And it's actually worth quite a bit.
Oh, hang on, I've got a contact there.
So that tells me I should move a bit further that way.
Well, I think this is straight.
Let's have a go. No lights, so I think I'm through. Yes!
Whoa, there we go!
It turns out that if you scale that exact same idea up, quite a lot,
you end up with something pretty cool.
Oh! We're off.
This is the TerraMax.
It's a ten-tonne, six-wheel-drive military truck.
There's nobody in here but me, and I'm not driving.
Yeah, it's driving itself.
And it really is.
It's not remote-controlled, it's not some glorified form of sat nav
and there's no hidden driver.
Which begs the question - how can it see where it's going?
In fact, it's using whiskers.
All right, if it's got whiskers, where are they?
But these are a very special sort of whisker.
Because they're invisible.
In fact, they're lasers.
Up on the roof, that spinning cylinder houses 64 of them,
each one revolving 15 times a second.
And that equates to it managing to gather, every second,
1.3 million touches on the landscape.
And this is what that looks like.
Each tiny dot on the screen shows a point a laser whisker has touched.
Build those up over a couple of seconds and the TerraMax gets
an astonishingly accurate map of its surroundings.
But what would happen if they came upon something unexpected?
Something like this...
..12 concrete-filled bollards.
It should be terrifying, but it kind of isn't.
It's kind of joyous. This thing has a personality.
It's as close to alive as I can imagine a truck being.
This is the future.
This little truck, with its array of whiskers that work in exactly
the same way that a harbour seal's whiskers do -
it's just that these are lasers - is the future.
This is what we'll all be in.
A self-driving truck based on a seal's whiskers -
just another of the miracles of nature.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd