A little car guided entirely by a living rat's brain: what could go wrong? Well it could crash it's way through the grocery store's cheese isle for one. Plus leave its little rat-pellets all over the floor for two. *heaving* I thought somebody was leaking chocolate chips!
The animal-robot hybrid was developed by researchers at the University of Tokyo, who explained its purpose to IEEE Spectrum:
"We wanted to develop a brain-machine interface system aiming for future wheelchairs that paralyzed patients can control only with thought," says Osamu Fukayama of the university's Medical Engineering and Life Science Laboratory. "RatCar is a simplified prototype to develop better electrodes, devices, and algorithms for those systems."
The researchers first implanted electrodes in the motor cortex of each rat's brain, and then trained it to tow the contraption around while the motor was turned off. Next the rat was suspended beneath the car so that it could only lightly touch the ground, and couldn't actually move the robo-car with its limbs. Then the car was switched to brain-reading mode and researchers watched to see if the rat could control the car's movements with only the pulses from its motor cortex.
That. sounds. terrifying. And not in a good way like you're on a haunted hayride, in a bad way like you're in prison and your cellmate has a crush on that ass. Literally -- just your ass. Been there, done that, I HAVE A FACE TOO YOU KNOW!
It's a Rat! It's a Toy Car! It's RatCar? [discovermagazine]
Thanks to Shaun and Shane, who agree rodent-brain guided cars are the beginning of the end. Ha -- BEGINNING?! We're more than halfway already!