This robot, made in Lego Mindstorms EV3, is more innovative than it seems. Its behavior is simple: when it encounters an obstacle, it stops, turns. Nothing very extraordinary if it is is not a program that controls this robot, but a worm brain that makes it react in this way, or rather a digital replica of Caenorhabditis elegans, a simple worm. It is very well known researcher in molecular biology that have made it a model organism. The OpenWorm project strives to model this modest living digitally in all its aspects, including its nervous system.
Neurons to guide a robot, a relatively old idea
In any good novel of science fiction, robots are equipped with a brain that allows them to a greater or lesser autonomy of decision. Artificial brain which distinguish them from the industrial robots or vacuums of today. The idea of installing an artificial place neural network and place of a classical computer in the head of a robot is not new. Professor Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading, Pope of the cyborg movement, operates some years ago of small robots controlled by rat neurons. The approach of Timothy Busbice, the creator of this robot head of worm, is different. It relies on the Connectome, a digital brain that very accurately simulates the “brain” of our Caenorhabditis elegans, one of the achievements of the OpenWorm research program.
C-Elegans, a relatively simple model worm
Our worm, call C-Elegans, is someone who has been able to keep it simple. Biologically speaking. This consists in adulthood, only 1,031 cells. A figure very precise and constant from one individual to another. This 1,000 cells, 302 neurons. This will probably not suffice to allow him to discover the meaning of life, but it is precisely this extreme simplicity which interested researchers at the highest point. They got down to a complete documentation of this well being close to nothingness. All of the 19,099 genes of its 6 chromosomes were sequenced since 1998 and the OpenWorm project went well beyond even. In addition to a wiki which includes everything you always wanted to know about C-Elegans without daring to the requested, the project to modeled in 3D the beast in 3D (it’s the OpenWorm Browser project). Researchers have also modeled and simulated all of its internal structure, its “muscles” and its various intimate membranes. The Sibernetic project allows to see a worm simulate squirm with the same elegance that the true to break a path in a test tube. Researchers have even developed Geppetto, impressive simulation software for multiscale and receiving that will perhaps one day humanity to escape the zombie apocalypse prophesied by the writers of the “Walking Dead” series. Finally, the ‘ Connectome Engine ‘ project digitally simulates brain of the character. It is this software brain that animates this poor Mindstorms robot which would have probably liked best host.
This amazing research program OpenWorm has managed to raise $121.076 on Kickstarter in may 2014, evidence if needed still that man is magnanimous and despite the fate reserve them worms.
Translation : Bing Translator
“Are we on the brink of creating artificial life? Scientists digitise the brain of a WORM and place it inside a robot”, DailyMail, November 27, 2014
“A Worm’s Mind In A Lego Body”, I-Programmer, November 16 2014