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Future Tech: 

Meet the lego robot with the brain of a worm


1. Worm brain + Lego robot. 2. ???? 3. Profit

None of us want to die, and we all like playing with Lego. These simple facts are pretty much undisputed, so it’s good to see that science took a small, but important, step towards Lego based immortality recently, when scientists programmed a Lego Robot to respond to a Worm’s brainwaves.

First things first: it’s not a real worm brain – there’s no tiny brain surgery at work here. Instead, scientists have just mapped the worm’s 302 neurons and simulated them in software form: OpenWorm (we say ‘just’, but that still beats our sum total achievements for the day.)

These functions are connected to a Lego robot body, where it responds to stimuli based on what it ‘thinks’ is best – it is not following any kind of computer code or instruction, which is an important distinction. This isn’t Artificial Intelligence – it’s real intelligence. Albeit invertebrate intelligence, so not that bright, in the greater scheme of things.

The body parts of the worm have been mapped to its new robot body, with a sonar sensor replacing the nose and motor neurons on its sides to allow it to move. The robot will behave as a worm would to external factors: stimulating the nose stops it moving forward, while activating its food sensors has the opposite effect.

The results are suitably wormy, as you can see in the video below;

In case you’re curious, the specific worm brain used is that of the Caenorhabditis elegans. They’re just a millimetre long, with transparent skin. This worm would have felt like Godzilla, if only it had the pop-culture knowledge and brainpower to draw the comparison in its 302 neurons.

Baby steps, but you may be seeing the first small steps towards immortality here: and hopefully it won’t just be our lucky invertebrate overlords who benefit in the long run…

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