Cyborg Rats Solve Mazes Better Than Rats or Computers Alone

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Robots are now capable of outsmarting humans in many tasks, but there are still plenty of areas where artificial intelligence falls flat. A new study published in PLOS One shows that rat intelligence combined with computer-controlled implants results in better maze performance than either component on its own, suggesting that cyborg intelligence has a promising future.

As reported by Gizmodo, researchers from Zhejiang University in China implanted microelectrodes into the brains of six rats after training them to navigate a series of mazes. The rats were observed running through the mazes both with computer assistance and without it. The scientists also developed a maze-solving algorithm to test out alone. When the cyborg rats would struggle at a portion of the maze, the brain implants would offer them hints by cueing the creatures to move either left or right. On this round, the rats were able to solve the maze in fewer steps than it took their unaided selves or the computer algorithm alone. They also performed faster with the cyborg advantage and were more graceful over complex terrain like ramps, tunnels, and steps.

The benefits of cyborg intelligence can be seen in human endeavors as well. Programs like Google Translate and Google Maps may seem like impressive examples of artificial intelligence, but they rely heavily on judgments made by humans. With Translate, for example, an algorithm pulls words and phrases from a massive database of human-translated texts to come up with more accurate results than it would have with no context. Still, a more literal implementation of cyborg intelligence like the rat experiment in the video below is still a far way off from being applied to human brains.

[h/t Gizmodo]