Technology

artificial intelligence, robotics, gordon robot
University of Reading
The brain of Gordon the robot

Robot Has Rat for Brains

August 15, 2008 11:16 AM
by Josh Katz
The latest of many recent developments in robot technology allows a robot to move around solely through the use of its biological brain, made from rat neurons.

Robots Thinking

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The University of Reading in England has revealed the creation of a robot named Gordon that moves only through commands from its brain. The brain is composed of rat neurons, and it helps the robot decide which direction to move its wheels to navigate so as not to bump into other objects.

“This new research is tremendously exciting as firstly the biological brain controls its own moving robot body, and secondly it will enable us to investigate how the brain learns and memorizes its experiences,” said the university’s Kevin Warwick. “This research will move our understanding forward of how brains work, and could have a profound effect on many areas of science and medicine.”

The researchers hope this development could help lead to innovations with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and brain injuries, according to LiveScience. 

“One of the fundamental questions that scientists are facing today is how we link the activity of individual neurons with the complex behaviors that we see in whole organisms,” said Ben Whalley, a pharmacist at the University of Reading and a member of the team that created the robot.

Robots Walking

The first week in August, researchers from Leipzig unveiled software that imitates the human "neural network," allowing robots to “learn” from their mistakes.
A video provided by researchers shows simulated animals and humans exploring their environment and learning, through trial and error, how to move around. The simulated human tries to stand up while the animal learns how to maneuver over a wall.
Professor Ralf Der at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics said, "It's like a newborn baby—it doesn't know anything but tries motions that are natural for its body. Half an hour later, it's rolling and jumping."
The software can be used on other robots and it is very flexible because, “As conditions change, so can the robot's behaviour,” according to the BBC. The robots still lack long-term memory, but researchers say they are working on that.
The Artificial Life XI conference in Winchester, England that week featured the new technology as well as other findings, including the work of professor Mark Bedau of Reed College in Portland, Ore., who believes that computer evolution could help scientists better understand human evolution.

Robots Talking

While the Leipzig researchers are creating robots that can learn to move, researchers from Plymouth University in England are building robots that can learn the concepts of language, just like children do.
“It is not really easy to copy and paste information from one robot brain to another because if you do that you are going to upset everything that the robot already knows. What we can do is let robots talk to each other over an internet connection, interact and exchange information in the way that children would exchange information in a nursery,” said Tony Belpaeme, one of the researchers on the Plymouth project.

Robots Swarming

The Artificial Life XI conference also featured swarming robots, which are small, cheap, move in packs and are built with the motors that vibrate mobile phones. Acting like a swarm of bees, they can cooperate for tasks like exploring Mars or monitoring oil spills.
The Telegraph also wrote that, “they can already be programmed to ‘feel hungry’ and charge themselves at special charging stations, to program each other with software, mimicking the trick that is used by bacteria, and to test each other.”

Robots Shooting

The military is increasingly using robotic technology, as well. Washington University’s Doug Few and Bill Smart predict that robotic forces will make up 30 percent of the Army by around 2020.
Humans operate all robots used by the Army remotely. “While movies display robots as intelligent beings, Smart and Few are not necessarily looking for intelligent decision-making in their robots. Instead, they are working to develop an improved, ‘intelligent’ functioning of the robot,” Science Daily reported.

Robots Healing

Robots have also been used for the purposes of healing, as demonstrated by the robotic baby seal Paro. Paro, an improvement on Aibo, the robotic puppy, reacts to humans and expresses mannerisms similar to that of a living animal. Nursing homes have been using the robot to help treat dementia and loneliness in the elderly.

Related Link: 'Monkey Moves Robot with Brain'

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