These New ‘Brain-In-A-Jar’ Biocomputers Can Now Learn To Control Robots

Living brain cells can now drive robots, thanks to an open-source intelligent interaction system called MetaBOC. This project aims to rehome human brain cells in artificial bodies, marking a new frontier in biocomputing technology.

Researchers have developed methods to grow human brain cells on silicon chips because human neurons communicate in the same electrical language as computers. These neurons can receive electrical signals, process them, and respond, effectively learning and adapting.

The first significant breakthrough in this field was the DishBrain project at Monash University, Australia, where about 800,000 brain cells grown on a chip learned to play Pong in just five minutes. Funded by the Australian military, this project led to the creation of Cortical Labs, which aims to commercialize hybrid learning intelligence using human brain cells.

The MetaBOC project, developed by researchers at Tianjin University’s Haihe Laboratory of Brain-Computer Interaction and Human-Computer Integration alongside teams from the Southern University of Science and Technology, is open-source software designed to interface brain-on-a-chip biocomputers with electronic devices. This system allows brain organoids to perceive their environment through electronic signals, operate controls, and learn tasks such as navigating robots and manipulating objects.

Using ball-shaped organoids resembling natural brain structures, the MetaBOC system benefits from their complex neural connections. These organoids are grown with low-intensity focused ultrasound stimulation, which enhances their intelligence foundation.

The potential applications of brain-on-a-chip technology are vast. The Tianjin team specifically highlights robotics as a critical integration target. Brain organoids can learn to drive robots, avoid obstacles, and perform complex tasks. While initial images of brain-controlled robots may appear whimsical, the underlying technology is profoundly serious.

However, ethical considerations loom large. “Let’s say that these systems do develop consciousness – very unlikely, but let’s say it does happen. Then it would be best if you decided whether it is ethically right to test with them or not?” mused Brett Kagan, Chief Scientific Officer at Cortical Labs. These questions reflect broader concerns as science pushes the boundaries of understanding and control over biological and artificial intelligence.

Projects like MetaBOC, alongside ventures like Neuralink, which aims to create high-bandwidth brain-computer interfaces, and the surging AI industry, signify a remarkable era in science and technology. Humanity faces unprecedented challenges and opportunities as we approach the technological singularity—the point where AI surpasses human intelligence and accelerates progress.

In 2024, the fusion of biological and artificial intelligence will no longer be science fiction. It will be a reality that promises to reshape our understanding of life, consciousness, and technology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *