World’s First Digital Animal Created In Robot Body

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Is the world’s first digital replica of an animal either a dog, cat, or a more exotic animal?

Are scientists close to digitising their first animal on a computer system? Well maybe not a full animal just yet, but they are close. Very close.

Because scientists have now recreated the brain of a worm and placed it inside a robot.

AI Robot

Known as the OpenWorm project, the open source project is dedicated to creating a virtual C. elegans nematode (or worm) inside a computer. The scientists have thus placed or implanted the digital ‘mind’ of the worm into a Lego-like robot, because its brain is pretty small in comparison to the human brain for example.

robot mariaA video of the robot worm in action is located here. People will be pleased (or not) to know that currently the human body is much too complex to store in a computer. The C. elegans worm on the other hand is one of the simplest forms of life we know, hence the reason scientists were able to transplant its brain into a robot.

The researchers from around the world even created a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year to fund the creation of a worm, that users can download onto their computers.

The idea of a robot containing the artificial brain that is precisely modelled on that of a nematode worm could begin to pose a new set of questions for mankind. For example, is the digital replica of a worm then technically classified as being alive?

“The mere act of trying to put a working model together causes us to realise what we know and what we don’t know,” John Long, a roboticist and neuroscientist at Vassar College in New York State told New Scientist.

But potentially digital animals could for example help scientists in the future, remove the need for testing on real animals.

Robot Future?

Robotics is coming a long way recently. Earlier this month, researchers at Oslo University utilised 3D printers to make self-learning robots, capable of analysing a situation or problem, and developing a strategy to overcome the challenge.

A report also recently warned that over a third of the UK’s workforce or 11 million jobs could be at threat over the next few decades as computers and robots begin to take over many jobs.

But fear not….it is not all bad news. Researchers have developed a tiny robot that can swim through the bloodstream of a human being in order to deliver medicine to the problem area.

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