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Robotics Biotech Technology

Rat-Brained Robots Take Their First Steps 289

Posted by timothy
from the aside-from-snow-crash-and-politics dept.
missb writes "Brain tissue cultured from rats has controlled a wheeled robot around a lab, according to New Scientist this week. Researchers in the UK have harnessed signals from thousands of disembodied rat neurons, and manipulated them to get a robot to respond to instructions. The team at the University of Reading in the UK hope their research will help provide treatments for diseases like Alzheimer's and epilepsy."
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Rat-Brained Robots Take Their First Steps

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:55PM (#24587967)

    I for one welcome our new Rat-Brained Robot overlords!

    • by colmore (56499) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:22PM (#24588415) Journal

      Does anyone else out there take science fiction just a *little* bit seriously and think that some of the robotics innovations over the past 10 or 15 years might be a little bit dangerous?

      AI is actually a little bit impressive, there just isn't a market for it yet.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by thedonger (1317951)
        Right. We try to develop something in a few years that took a hundred million years to evolve and expect that if we manage to duplicate it somehow it will be totally benign?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by d474 (695126)
        Give me your boots, cheese, and your motorcycle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jacquesm (154384)

      I for one am sick and tired of researchers hijacking Alzheimers and other diseases to legitimize their work.

      Even if your work is not even remotely related just mentioning that one day maybe you will possibly contribute a tiny little bit then everybody will give you all the news coverage you could possibly want.

      • by DM9290 (797337)

        Even if your work is not even remotely related just mentioning that one day maybe you will possibly contribute a tiny little bit then everybody will give you all the news coverage you could possibly want.

        Because making rat brain controlled robots isn't newsworthy?

        • by jacquesm (154384)

          maybe, but it really is not at all related to Alzheimers, and that's what gets them the coverage.

          That's just a cynical usage of other peoples suffering to get funding and publicity.

      • by Alzheimers (467217) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:24PM (#24589401)

        Agreed. Please stop hijacking me!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Metasquares (555685)
        Yeah, my first thought was "this is not even remotely related to Alzheimer's, and even relating it to epilepsy is a stretch." It's not about publicity, though; it's about funding.
    • I for one welcome our new Rat-Brained Robot overlords!

      who said they were new "ba-dum TSH"

  • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:55PM (#24587971)
    What was the lead researcher's name? Davros?
  • by slashdotlurker (1113853) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:56PM (#24587985)
    Curious minds want to know.
    • by MBCook (132727)

      Really? I was thinking of how scientists recently created a sheep with the brain of a goat [youtube.com].

      The story was reported by The Onion, this is just the link I came across for it.

    • Actually this reminds me of an anime recently released in Japan by the name of Ghost Hound, apparently by the same person who did Ghost in the Shell and supposedly of the same quality. I wouldn't know, I've only seen half the series but what I saw was relatively thought provoking and definitely interesting.
  • "The team at the University of Reading in the UK hope their research will help provide treatments for diseases like Alzheimer's and epilepsy."

    That outcome is very much exaggerated, apparently to try to get more attention. Any such result would depend on other huge advancements not yet made.
    • by gedhrel (241953) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:11PM (#24588217)

      Hugely inflated claims? From Captain Cyborg? To generate press attention?

      Film, as they say, at eleven.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Joe Tie. (567096)
      To be fair, you kind of have to play the game to get funding at times. At least "It'll save the lives of our troops!" wasn't on there.
    • They put a 1V signal in and find a place where a 100mV signal shows itself and take that as an output. That is then used to stimulate the robot platform's turning logic.

      A random bag of paper clips would do the same.

      Call me back when they have decision making.

    • by samkass (174571)

      I gather that their cure for Alzheimer's and epilepsy is apparently to remove the brain and place it in a robotic body?

    • Actually, to me it sounded like a case of optimism about the wrong thing. The more important result of such research would be in understanding how exactly the brain works, which would be useful in reverse-engineering it and learning how it implements those functions that are notoriously difficult to program: social interaction, human language (if a human brain), creativity, etc., all while burdened with tons of biases. That would, in turn, help in making realistic androids.

      However, if EmbeddedJanitor is r

  • by iXiXi (659985) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @02:59PM (#24588047)
    We have had these running around here for years. We just called them MBA's.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dekortage (697532)

      They tried a mass of politician neurons first, but the robot kept speeding directly for the wall.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by UncleTogie (1004853) *

        They tried a mass of politician neurons first, but the robot kept speeding directly for the wall.

        ...and tried to shag the wall once it reached it...

    • by ruin20 (1242396)
      That's "Mouse Brained Android" as "Masters of Business Administration" clearly don't react logically to external stimuli.
  • by syrinx (106469) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:00PM (#24588065) Homepage

    Surely a rat brain would be an improvement over the standard politician's brain.

  • Aaargh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:03PM (#24588111)
    Suddenly, I just can't stop screaming.
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:07PM (#24588165) Journal
    It was the whoosh of grant money going down the drain.

    This work will hopefully contribute to our knowledge of how brains work, but its potential should not be exaggerated, says Potter. "This system is a model. Everything it does is merely similar to what goes on in a brain, it's not really the same thing. We can learn about the brain - but it may mislead us."

    What? Is he serious, making a statement like that? Does he think grants grow on trees, that he can so blithely disregard the opportunity for sensationalistic coverage and the resultant exposure to those who issue private grants? Sure, Alzheimer's is mentioned, which is a nice hook, but he needs to make ridiculous claims in order to break through the wall of grant-deniers.

    Sheesh. What is the academic world coming to, that they make responsible statements regarding their research?

  • Unlike rats, you can't eat a robot.




    What?!
  • by laejoh (648921) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:10PM (#24588201)

    Will these rat things be programmed never to break the sound barrier in a populated area?

  • FTW. Who are they trying to kid? They are building man/machine interfaces. Unless they plan of replacing human CNS components (brain stem?) with electronics then I don't see the connection at all.

    They should just come clean and say what they are doing, which is probably cool in itself, but a little spooky; they are building cyborgs.

    But that isn't going to nail any grants from the NIH, so they go with the "aid to the afflicted" thing. Crap. And if they are going to lie and deflect on the basics, I guess they

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blincoln (592401)

      What if the damned thing exhibits delta waves at some point?

      I was also thinking along those lines. Since this research uses fetal brain tissue, the animal (or potentially human) brain cells can't really remember being anything else, but it's still pretty eerie trying to imagine what the experience would be like if there were enough cells (however many that is) for consciousness.

      I think there are some amazing potential applications for this type of research, but I also have a feeling that eventually someone

  • Cool name (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:18PM (#24588343)

    "Rat-Brained Robots" would make a good name for a punk band.

  • This is simultaneously one of the more interesting, exciting, and terrifying news Items I've seen a while.

  • I keep imagining a robot that keeps trying to crawl behind the fridge when you turn on the lights!
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:34PM (#24588639)
    Reading about disembodied rat-brains and what George Lucas can do with a script got me thinking about future projects for LucasArts... Announcing the new animated film from George Lucas, Scott Adams and George Romero, Night of the Living Ratbert, featuring the disembodied brain of Jar Jar.
    • Qui-Gon: You almost got us killed. Are you brainless?
    • Jar Jar: I spake.
    • Qui-Gon: The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.
    • Jar Jar: "The Bosses would do terrible tings to me, terrible tings to me if me goin' back dere!"
    • Qui-Gon: "Do you hear that? "
    • Jar Jar:"Yah."
    • Qui-Gon: "That is the sound of a thousand disembodied rat-brains heading this way."
      Off in the distance: "Brains, braaiinnss..."
    • Qui-Gon: (Starts hacking with lightsaber.)
    • Jar Jar: Messa feel strange... Brains, braaiinnss...
  • How long until we have the first rat-brained cruise missile? ICBM? How far are we ahead of the Chinese in rat-brain technology? How big is the rat-brain GAP? Will anyone miss Wisconsin?
    • by argent (18001)

      How long until we have the first rat-brained cruise missile?

      Skinner found that pigeons work better for controlling munitions.

  • Uh oh.. it can only be a short time until we're under siege from an army of very small Cybermen.
  • by OxFF52 (1126819) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @03:46PM (#24588847)

    I found this article... then checked Slashdot.

    Where have all the intelligent slashdotters gone? Let's all STOP trying to come up with the funniest one-liner and talk about the subject at hand here.

    They have taken brain cells and taught them to control a robot. This is simply freakin' astounding!

    What else has been done related to this such as MEMS? Anyone?

    • by AtariKee (455870)
      You must be new here.
    • The intelligent ones are still here, mostly. What you see as funny one-liners are intelligent people who are frustrated by over-hyped, almost never delivered technical promises and poorly communicated media publications that are only in it to make a buck. How many times have you heard "revolutionary" or "breakthrough" in an article? True, having robot's controlled by neural tissue is astounding, but let's see something really come out of it before we get to impressed!
  • Pronounced "Redding" if you ever need to speak the name aloud. In the same vein as Leicester is pronounced Lester, not Ly-sester.
  • It's alive!!! ALIIIIIIIIVE!!!

    (cue Oingo Boingo...)

  • Hey! You kids get of my ...Sqeeeak!....damned lawn!
  • I for one (Score:3, Funny)

    by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:12PM (#24589205)

    I for one, congratulate the RIAA for taking their first steps.

  • I suggest you check out SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson.

    Fido is a good puppy and a pit bull terrier known as a "Rat Thing" by others. He's a biologically-brained robotic guard dog that does bad things to bad people, as he should.

    Andy Out!

  • So.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by jvkjvk (102057) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @07:32PM (#24592039)

    A real stainless steel rat?

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