Navigation research

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Whereas originally the term Navigation applies to the process of directing a ship to a destination, Navigation research deals with fundamental aspects of navigation in general. It can be defined as "The process of determining and maintaining a course or trajectory to a goal location" (Franz, Mallot, 2000), it concerns basically all moving agents, biological or artificial, autonomous or remote-controlled.

Franz and Mallot proposed a navigation hierarchy in Robotics and Autonomous Systems 30 (2006):[1]

Behavioural prerequisite Navigation competence
Local navigation
Search Goal recognition Finding the goal without active goal orientation
Direction-following Align course with local direction Finding the goal from one direction
Aiming Keep goal in front Finding a salient goal from a catchment area
Guidance Attain spatial relation to the surrounding objects Finding a goal defined by its relation to the surroundings
Recognition-triggered response Association sensory pattern-action Following fixed routes
Topological navigation Route integration, route planning Flexible concatenation of route segments
Survey navigation Embedding into a common reference frame Finding paths over novel terrain

There are two basic methods for navigation:

Human navigation[edit]

In human navigation people visualize different routes in their minds to plan how to get from one place to another; the things which they rely on to plan these routes vary from person to person and are the basis of the differing navigational strategies.

Some people use measures of distance and absolute directional terms (north, south, east, and west) in order to visualize the best pathway from point to point; the use of these more general, external cues as directions is considered part of an allocentric navigation strategy. Allocentric navigation is typically seen in males and is beneficial primarily in large and/or unfamiliar environments;[2] this likely has some basis in evolution when males would have to navigate through large and unfamiliar environments while hunting.[3] The use of allocentric strategies when navigating primarily activates the hippocampus and parahippocampus in the brain; this navigation strategy relies more on a mental, spatial map than visible cues, giving it an advantage in unknown areas but a flexibility to be used in smaller environments as well. The fact that it is mainly males that favor this strategy is likely related to the generalization that males are better navigators than females as it is better able to be applied in a greater variety of settings.[2]

Egocentric navigation relies on more local landmarks and personal directions (left/right) to navigate and visualize a pathway; this reliance on more local and well-known stimuli for finding their way makes it difficult to apply in new locations, but is instead most effective in smaller, familiar environments.[2] Evolutionarily, egocentric navigation likely comes from our ancestors who would forage for their food and need to be able to return to the same places daily to find edible plants; this foraging usually occurred in relatively nearby areas and was most commonly done by the females in hunter-gatherer societies.[3] Females, today, are typically better at knowing where various landmarks are and often rely on them when giving directions. Egocentric navigation causes high levels of activation in the right parietal lobe and prefrontal regions of the brain that are involved in visuospatial processing.[2]

Robotic navigation[edit]

Outdoor robots can use GPS in a similar way to automotive navigation systems. Alternative systems can be used with floor plan instead of maps for indoor robots, combined with localization wireless hardware.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Franz; Mallot (2000). Robotics and Autonomous Systems 30. pp. 133–153.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d Andreano & Cahill (2009)
  3. ^ a b Geary (1998)


  • Andreano, J. M., & Cahill, L. (2009). Sex influences on the neurobiology of learning and memory. Learning & memory, 16(4), 248-246.
  • Geary, D. C. (1998). Male, female: The evolution of human sex differences. (pp. 259-303). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.