Rat Brain Robot Gets Upgrades

The rat brain robot created by University of Reading researchers has been getting some cool upgrades.

Take a look at the following video, enjoy the music, and watch rat neurons tell a little floor robot what to do.


(Living robot has biological brain)

Note the cool additional sensors and LED light displays. Also, they've been trying out different brains.

According to Kevin Warwick, one of the researchers, "It's quite funny - you get differences between the brains. This one is a bit boisterous and active, while we know another is not going to do what we want it to." Warwick later speculates that much of the difference between rat and human brains lies in the number of neurons and not the neurons themselves. Picking on that particular statement, since I think it's a pretty bold claim, you have to wonder about animals like whales and elephants who have one to two times the number of neurons we do. If he's right and it's the number of neurons that makes the difference, we are literally killing sentient beings. Of course, to the people who are killing blue whales and elephants, that doesn't matter one bit.

In case you hadn't read any of the previous articles, here's a quick summary of how it works (see Living robot has biological brain for more):

The robot has an actual, living brain consisting of rat neurons. The cells are removed from rat fetuses and then disentangled from each other with an enzyme bath. Finally, the cells are spread over a multi-electrode array (MEA) bathed in a nutrient-rich medium. Impulses from its robotic part are received; the neurons organize themselves and fire electrical signals back.

Fans of Cordwainer Smith continue to be amazed that the Laminated Mouse Brain Computer from his 1962 classic Think Blue, Count Two is coming true. And don't forget the 'head cheese' cultured brains from Peter Watts' 1999 novel Starfish.

Oh and I should also mention Robert Heinlein; in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, he mentions the idea that computers of massive capacity could be created by combining a number of Cyborgs with human brains.

Thanks to Armisius for sending in the tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/16/2009)

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