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Dalek prototype
August 15, 2008 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Rise of the rat-brained robots. [Via]
posted by homunculus (39 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
From the link: "This is no ordinary robot control system - a plain old microchip connected to a circuit board. Instead, the controller nestles inside a small pot containing a pink broth of nutrients and antibiotics. Inside that pot, some 300,000 rat neurons have made - and continue to make - connections with each other.

As they do so, the disembodied neurons are communicating, sending electrical signals to one another just as they do in a living creature. We know this because the network of neurons is connected at the base of the pot to 80 electrodes, and the voltages sparked by the neurons are displayed on a computer screen.

It's these spontaneous electrical patterns that researchers at the University of Reading in the UK want to harness to control a robot. If they can do so reliably, by stimulating the neurons with signals from sensors on the robot and using the neurons' response to get the robots to respond, they hope to gain insights into how brains function. DESTROY US ALL.
posted by cashman at 12:04 PM on August 15, 2008


Haven't they done the opposite too - controlled living rats with electrodes inserted into their brains? The early 21st century - dawn of rat-technology revolution, or "rattech" as it was known at the time.

Perhaps similar things can be done with the brains of politicians.
posted by XMLicious at 12:08 PM on August 15, 2008


Ben, the two of us need look no more...
posted by shmegegge at 12:09 PM on August 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Welcome, overlords!
posted by DU at 12:11 PM on August 15, 2008


I'm just popping in to ruin the "I for one welcome etc etc" joke.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:11 PM on August 15, 2008


Can we please go back to when science fiction was fiction? Thanks.
posted by tommasz at 12:11 PM on August 15, 2008


But I wasn't quick enough....
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:12 PM on August 15, 2008


Cool, thanks!

BTW, the youtube links on the right list the following clip:

Robo-Mouse with a silicon brain

So first I thought the rodents have turned the tables and are now using brain transplants giving the awesome superpowers, but it turns out that it's just some sort of science project.

In any case, the rat brain thing is obviously a bad idea. Once it has enough intelligence, it will start hunting mammals for more brain power until it becomes, like, a super brain.
posted by sour cream at 12:12 PM on August 15, 2008


The Cylons were created by Man ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:12 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


EXTERMINATE!! EXTERMINATE!!
posted by stavrogin at 12:13 PM on August 15, 2008


This is incredible to me, in both senses of the word. I'm a little bit a-tingle with creeped-out wonder, here.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:17 PM on August 15, 2008


Rat punk!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:17 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have no mouth and I must gnaw!
posted by gubo at 12:30 PM on August 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Will the robots laugh when they are tickled?
posted by nickyskye at 12:40 PM on August 15, 2008


Haven't they done the opposite too - controlled living rats with electrodes inserted into their brains?

That's how the rat-daleks creat their rat robomen (roborat?) servants...

They'll be digging a big hole in Bedfordshire next.
posted by Artw at 12:48 PM on August 15, 2008


I saw a talk given by Steve Potter a few years ago. Nice guy, and makes a point of not taking DoD funding.

One part of his work he described involved hooking the cultures up to simulated environments, including a sparse Quake 1 level. Besides some simple wall following behaviors, the virtual rat wasn't capable of much in the way of sophisticated behavior; not all that surprising given the relative sparseness of units in the cultures as compared to a live rat brain. One avenue he was exploring to get better behavior out of the thing was to introduce neuromodulators (like dopamine, discussed a few days ago on the blue) to the cultures at appropriate times (like when the virtual rodent gets a virtual hunk o' cheese). I haven't heard much about it recently, but this is the kind of thing that makes me remember how cool being a theoretical neuroscientist can be.
posted by logicpunk at 12:50 PM on August 15, 2008


Electro-Brain!: IT'S MADE OF RATS
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:52 PM on August 15, 2008


Next up: Teaching the rat neural tissue to comment on you-tube.
posted by Artw at 12:53 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Next up: Teaching the rat neural tissue to comment on you-tube.

Well that would raise the level of discourse there significantly.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:59 PM on August 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Dyslexic Dave Bowman sez: It's full of rats!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:01 PM on August 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


AND THEY HAVE A PLAN.
posted by brain_drain at 1:28 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


This was not the droid I was looking for.

I'm actually a little creeped out by this. Disembodied brain cells moving a small bot around a box certainly does bring much to mind. Could these become zombies? Or are we looking at the first brain in a bottle?

something to think about.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 1:29 PM on August 15, 2008


B.F. Skinner's Pigeon-Guided Bomb
posted by Artw at 1:36 PM on August 15, 2008


The experiment seams to amount to "can we get a culture of neurons to interface with electrodes to control a simple device". Seems to me you could learn the same thing (and save a lot of work) by writing a simple computer game for the little buggers. Of course it wouldn't frighten as many people that way.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:45 PM on August 15, 2008


Next up: Teaching the rat neural tissue to comment on you-tube.

Well that would raise the level of discourse there significantly.


Version 2 will write the majority of posts for the Gawker blog network.
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


No
posted by Mick at 3:40 PM on August 15, 2008


Rose: They're [rats]?
The Doctor: They were. Now they've had all their humanity taken away. That's a living brain jammed inside a cybernetic body, with a heart of steel. All emotions removed.
Rose: Why no emotion?
The Doctor: Because it hurts.

posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:22 PM on August 15, 2008


Metafilter welcomes our new rat-brained robot overlords?! News to me. I, for one, kinda thought most of us voted against 'im, in 2000 and '04!

/cheap shot, but oh so obligatory
posted by eritain at 4:23 PM on August 15, 2008


OverlappingElvis - No one really gets THAT horrified at the thought of rats with their humanity taken away. It's way below "cybermen treated as cut rate Daleks" on my scale of Terror/annoyance.
posted by Artw at 4:24 PM on August 15, 2008


Artw - Oh, definitely. Tongue planted firmly in cheek. At the same time, I do find something about this pretty profoundly disturbing, and I can't put my finger on why. I suppose I'm ascribing feelings to something that isn't sophisticated to have any. This is really exciting stuff, and very fascinating, but the dalek/cyberman/borg/matrix concept is just too deeply rooted in my mind for me to not feel uneasy about it.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:34 PM on August 15, 2008


Now, ADDING humanity to rats, that could work...
posted by Artw at 4:37 PM on August 15, 2008


Mouse Brain a Miracle of Design
posted by homunculus at 5:55 PM on August 15, 2008


Impressive from a neuroscience viewpoint, but slapping the whole thing on a robot is nothing more than a gimmick to attract funding.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:32 PM on August 15, 2008


Impressive from a neuroscience viewpoint, but slapping the whole thing on a robot is nothing more than a gimmick to attract funding.

Not necessarily. A robot, even a small one, has to deal with the real world, which is much more complicated than a silicon representation of it, e.g. a first person shooter. Sensor data will be somewhat imperfect, there may be some slop in the mechanical response, and the physics model is more accurate. It's a good challenge.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:22 AM on August 16, 2008


A robot, even a small one, has to deal with the real world, which is much more complicated than a silicon representation of it, e.g. a first person shooter.

Hmmm... a rat brain module you can jack into your Xbox to provide a "wetware" opponent. Or, the RatMatrix, in which imprisoned rodent brains inhabit a collective virtual warren, never even realizing that it's not the real thing...
posted by XMLicious at 8:41 AM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Straight out of Cordwainer Smith.
posted by raygirvan at 11:51 AM on August 16, 2008


"Robot with rat brain" claims are exaggerated
posted by homunculus at 12:01 PM on August 19, 2008


Well, yeah, it's Kevin Warwick, that pretty much goes without saying.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on August 19, 2008


It's a real pity KevinWarwickWatch is dead...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:27 PM on August 19, 2008


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