I've already written about the "hybrot" -- the rat-brained robot -- here. Now, Georgia Tech researchers say that they can control the movements of this robot by a network of cultured neuron cells. EurekAlert! carries a new story about the "hybrot."
Steve Potter and his research team in the Laboratory for Neuroengineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology are studying the basics of learning, memory, and information processing using neural networks in vitro. Their goal is to create computing systems that perform more like the human brain.
As the lead researcher on a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Potter is connecting laboratory cultures containing living neurons to computers in order to create a simulated animal, which he describes as a "neurally-controlled animat."
"We call it the 'Hybrot' because it is a hybrid of living and robotic components," he said. "We hope to learn how living neural networks may be applied to the artificial computing systems of tomorrow. We also hope that our findings may help cases in which learning, memory, and information processing go awry in humans."
It sounds like exotic research, but what are the potential usages?
Potter's group hopes the research will lead to advanced computer systems that could some day assist in situations where humans have lost motor control, memory or information processing abilities. The neural interfacing techniques they are developing could be used with prosthetic limbs directly controlled by the brain. Advances in neural control and information processing theory could have application, for example, in cars that drive themselves or new types of computing architectures.
Source: EurekAlert!, April 25, 2003
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