Scientists Make a Robot With a Worm's 'Mind'

Lego invention moves without being programmed
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2014 7:52 AM CST

They're not quite at the point where they can implant a human brain into a robot—but scientists have taken a step closer. They've simulated the simple and well-studied nervous system of the Caenorhabditis elegans roundworm and stuck it in a robot, the Smithsonian reports. First, they mapped the creature's nervous system; then, they re-created it in software form. Finally, that software went to work in a robot made of Legos.

Instead of a nose, the Smithsonian notes, the robot has a sonar sensor; the program controls motors on the robot's sides instead of muscles, I Programmer reports. No instructions were programmed into the device, but it reportedly acted a lot like C. elegans does. If researchers stimulated its nose, it stopped moving; touching a food sensor drove it forward. "What we found is that rather than just random, crazy movements by the robot, it actually responded to its environment in the same manner as the biological worm," researcher Timothy Busbice tells Gizmodo. (The experiment might lend some support to the theory that robots will be smarter than we are by 2029.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.