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MIT Develops New, Different Rat-Brained Robot 20

MImeKillEr writes "Here's an article that explains that MIT has developed a coffee-cup sized robot that uses neurons from rat embryos embedded in silicon. It's the first instance in which cultured neurons have been used to control a robotic mechanism. This was made possible by placing a droplet of solution containing thousands of rat neuron cells onto a silicon chip that's embedded with 60 electrodes connected to an amplifier. The electrical signals that the cells fire at one another are picked up by the electrodes which then send the amplified signal into a computer. The computer, in turn, wirelessly relays the data to the robot."
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MIT Develops New, Different Rat-Brained Robot

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  • I for one welcome our new rat overlords and would like to mention that particle physicists will be very useful to them in synthesizing low-fat cheese substitutes.
  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by portege00 ( 110414 ) <> on Wednesday December 18, 2002 @10:14PM (#4920138) Homepage
    Now I'll need robot traps AND mouse traps. Thanks, MIT!
  • ...seeing this immediately after a story about Terminator 3. :)
  • by quintessent ( 197518 ) <my usr name on toofgiB [tod] moc> on Wednesday December 18, 2002 @10:29PM (#4920226) Journal
    Recent investigation reveals that Slashdot has eliminated all of its editors. In their place, a prototype RatBot seems to have been posting stories and adding comments.

    "We became suspicious when some readers noticed an improvement in the journalistic quality of story postings," reported one investigator, adding, "Now that we've gotten to the bottom of this, we're not sure if we want to change things back."
  • this is pretty cool figuring for the longest time, researchers have been trying to mimic intellegence (etc..) in computers, but now with this it might be possible to leave some of the complex thinking up to actual brain (chunks?), and adding whats needed on the electrical side
  • Any idea when they're going to use this stuff in elevators []?

    --"Use the stairs, Luke!"
  • so perhaps a california university will make him ???
  • by joto ( 134244 ) on Wednesday December 18, 2002 @11:15PM (#4920432)
    Bah, people have been connecting nerve-cells with electrodes for a long time before. I fail to see why it's so special to use it to control a robot.

    Now, if the robot would actually do something useful that we can't already build today with a cheap onboard computer, I would be impressed. But I suspect it doesn't. First, the article doesn't mention anything special it can do (it says it's a "thinker", but that's hardly productive unless we can figure out what it's "thinking" about). Secondly, it has only 60 connection points (surely not enough for any realistic kind of sensory input). Third, it has only "thousands of rat neuron cells". Finally, none of the researchers have any idea what they are doing (not that that's particulary bad, it's exactly what "research" means).

    Sure, you can grow a cell-culture somewhere, and it may even have some of the same attributes as the real thing grown from the same cells. But it lacks it's overall organization (which is good, unless you want something that acts like a mouse) (but is bad, because we don't even know how to put any kind of structure in it), and we still don't understand it (which is bad, because we can't use it to do anything useful, nor can we mass-produce it once somebody has been able to splot out something that actually does something useful).

    Sure, there probably are "interesting emergent properties" in cultures of nerve-cells. But don't expect a hybrot to take over the world in the next weeks... Actually, I'm more interested in the work in transforming them into this particular quote from the article: "Currently, Steven DeWeerth, professor of electrical engineering at Georgia Tech, is using Potter's findings to build actual circuits in silicon, although this work is still preliminary.". Now, that could maybe lead us somewhere where we get a better understanding of how neurons combine to do stuff...

    • Full feedback loops that control a real world robot is interesting. Maybe not earthshaking, maybe not the Evil Robot Army we all want to have, but it is a big deal.

      Sure, you can grow a cell-culture somewhere, and it may even have some of the same attributes as the real thing grown from the same cells. But it lacks it's overall organization

      I think that's the point, and for a wider audience than the ones who want replacement eyeballs and Evil Robot Armies.

      Learning how cognitive cells self-organize and interact with the real world is both a dazzling chance for more study and really, really fucking creepy.


    • It's not even as if no-one has used an organic brain to control a robot [] before either. Personally I prefer the idea of a piece of fishbrain suddenly finding itself trundling about on dry ground on a little trolley, as it's expanding its horizons by a fair amount, and letting it travel where no Lamprey has gone before; a piece of ratbrain in a robot will just be laughed at by all the real rats until the Blue Fairy comes along to turn him into a real rat (unless it ends up under the sea for ages upon ages, by which point robots will be the only intelligence on the planet, and they'll have the techology to... oops; sorry; I was a little traumatised by the last half-hour of A.I. (okay, I spelt "traumatised with an S, but I am British, dash it)).
  • One problem is that it keeps trying to eat cheese.

    No! No! You are a robot. Robots do not eat cheese! *sigh*
  • Robocop, here we come....

    "Put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply."

  • I can't believe nobody mentioned a Beowulf cluster of these.

    Or the ultimate DDOS attack on one, using Warfarin.
  • Since a dog is more trainable, dogbrains may be used with such robots, and a lot more sensory devices added.

    Hey, hows about adding birdbrains to RC airplanes. You know, the ones with the jet engines.

    Or adding bullbrains to power-steered SUVs, and letting em loose in a colliseum for a real bash.

    Or simply building a huge brain-farm, with their pleasure-centres multiplexed and connected to an IO processor that feeds input calculation data to the brains, and rewards pleasure to trios of brians that do their calculations right (trios, for parity). If they can do interbrain commnuication, they might come up with optimum ways of fixing problems in due time. Wouldnt mind playing Quake on the thing at all!!

    All these ideas are patented under 6000001, 6000002,6000003.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.