University of Reading scientists have developed a robot controlled by a biological brain formed from cultured neurons. And this is a world’s premiere. Other research teams have tried to control robots with ‘brains,’ but there was always a computer in the loop. This new project is the first one to examine ‘how memories manifest themselves in the brain, and how a brain stores specific pieces of data.’ As life expectancy is increasing in most countries, this new research could provide insights into how the brain works and help aging people.
In fact, the main goal of this project is to understand better the development of diseases and disorders which affect the brain such as Alzheimer or Parkinson diseases. It’s interesting to note that this project is being led by Professor Kevin Warwick, who became famous in 1998 when a silicon chip was implanted in his arm to allow a computer to monitor him in order to assess the latest technology for use with the disabled. But read more…
You can see on the left a picture of this robot with a biological brain. “The brain consists of a collection of neurons cultured on a Multi Electrode Array (MEA). It communicates and controls the robot via a Bluetooth connection.” (Credit: University of Reading). Here is a link to a larger version of this picture.
These robots are developed at the Cybernetic Intelligence Research Group, part of the School of Systems Engineering at the University of Reading. The team has been led by Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics (please also check his personal home page. He worked with two lecturers in his group, Dr Victor Becerra and Dr Slawomir Nasuto, as well as with Dr Ben Whalley, another lecturer in the School of Pharmacy.
Now, let’s look at these biological brains for robots. “The robot’s biological brain is made up of cultured neurons which are placed onto a multi electrode array (MEA). The MEA is a dish with approximately 60 electrodes which pick up the electrical signals generated by the cells. This is then used to drive the movement of the robot. Every time the robot nears an object, signals are directed to stimulate the brain by means of the electrodes. In response, the brain’s output is used to drive the wheels of the robot, left and right, so that it moves around in an attempt to avoid hitting objects. The robot has no additional control from a human or a computer, its sole means of control is from its own brain.”
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