Devices & Diagnostics

Advances using a worm and Lego robot could mean one day uploading our brains to a computer

The Open Worm Project has brought together scientists and programmers from around the world hoping to recreating the behavior of the common roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans) in a machine – and progress has been made that could eventually lead to some pretty incredible breakthroughs. The project has had its first major success recently by creating software […]

The Open Worm Project has brought together scientists and programmers from around the world hoping to recreating the behavior of the common roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans) in a machine – and progress has been made that could eventually lead to some pretty incredible breakthroughs.

The project has had its first major success recently by creating software modeled on the neurons of a worms nervous system that was able to control a robot. The Lego robot was able to respond appropriately to food stimulus.

With the worm’s nose neurons replaced by a sonar sensor and the motor neurons running down both sides of the worm replicated on the left and right motors of the Lego bot, the robot could emulate the worm’s biological wiring.

This is a big feat when it comes to artificial intelligence. The robot likely won’t be able to accurately respond to predators or a mate for a while, according to the scientists. But this much progress is promising for future growth.

“We’ve been working on it for four years and while we have a lot more to achieve it’s been the most surprising project I’ve been involved in,” project coordinator Stephen Larson told CNN. “It’s certainly exceeded my expectations.”

Growth with biological technology is a good thing, but the researchers aren’t trying to play this up as a seriously huge breakthrough quite yet.

“We know we have the correct number of neurons, we have them connected together in roughly the same way that the animal has, and they’re organized in the same way in that there are some neurons that give out information and other neurons that receive information,” Larson said. “We feel we’ve gone a long way down the road, but we still know that there’s a lot that’s been left out and there are a lot of assumptions — at the moment it represents one point in a line of iterative improvements. I’d say we’re only 20 to 30% of the way towards where we need to get.”