Robotic rat torments and depresses real rats

robotic-rat-torments-real-rats

Animal testing has always been a subject of much debate. On one hand, it allows us to determine if something is probably safe for humans. On the other hand, it’s injuring and killing the very animals that help us escape that same fate. Any way you look at it, be thankful you’re not a lab rat. Being a mammal, they share a similar physiology with us. They are also easy to breed and easy to dispose of. These characteristics make them the prime subject for testing the safety of drugs and treatments that might one day be used on humans. Scientists at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, have created a new rat nemesis – the WR-3, a robot designed specifically to stress and depress lab animals in the name of science.

Depression isn’t normally something rats have to worry about in the wild. So, the WR-3 tries to instill it upon them. The robot has three functions: attacking continuously (relentlessly rams the victim), attacking interactively (attacks for 5 seconds whenever the victim moves, then stops), and chasing (stays right next to the victim but never attacks). The scientists found that the best way to make the rats depressed was to attack them continuously in their youth, then attack interactively as they get older.

With the data the scientists gain from these new experiments, they hope to learn more about human depression and hopefully come up with more successful treatments. There isn’t a lot of specific information we could find about the WR-3, but we’ll keep you posted.

[via Gizmodo]

Automated humane pest control

rat_trap_2000

[Tobie] seems to have a bit of a rat problem.

While most people would be inclined to simply buy the oversized Victor spring-loaded rat traps and call it a day, [Tobie] is a bit more humane. To help remedy his problem while also ensuring that no rats are harmed in the process, he built the Rat Trap 2000.

Self-described as completely over the top, the Rat Trap 2000 lures the rodents into its containment area with apples and corn, securing them inside using a servo-actuated trap door. The door is triggered by an Arduino that monitors the holding pen for movement using an IR sensor. All of the action is captured on video using the web cam on his Eee-PC, as you can see in the very short video below.

This certainly isn’t the most cost-efficient way to control your vermin problems, but if you’ve got some spare parts laying around, why not? It’s far more humane than some of the other rodent control solutions we have seen, and it sure beats living with rats!

[Read more...]

Hackaday unleashes a Troll sniffing rat

Sometimes we like to take a few minutes away from Hackaday to spend time with our families. But just when you take your eyes off of the incoming comments, Trolls are bound to strike. Well, [Caleb] and I found a solution to the problem in the form of a troll sniffing rat. This beady-eyed vermin sits on my desk and waits. When a trolling comment is detected its eyes glow red and an alarm is sounded. Join us after the break for more about this silly project.

[Read more...]

Rat propulsion via brain-machine interface

Our little red-eyed friend can drive this vehicle around with his mind. WITH HIS MIND, MAN!

This is the product of research into adaptive technologies. The process is pretty invasive, implanting neural electrodes in the motor cortex of the brain. The hope is that some day this will be a safe and reliable prospect for returning mobility to paralysis victims.

We found it interesting that the vehicle was trained to react to the rats’ movements. They were allowed to move around a test space under their own power while brain signals were monitored by the electrodes. Video tracking was used to correlate their movements with those signals, and that data is used to command the motors for what the Japanese researchers are calling RatCar.

We can see the possibilities opening up for a mechanized cockroach v. RatCar free-for-all. Something of a battlebots with a live tilt. But we kid, this is actually quite creepy.

[via Neatorama and PopSci]

Scratchbot: Whiskers to the rescue

Scratchbot is designed as a rescue bot, going places where there is low visibility. It’s defining feature is the fact that it uses “whiskers” to feel for things. We feel like this is a little gimmicky. If it is a low visibility situation, wouldn’t IR or audio, possibly sonar be a more effective? How would it differentiate between different physical obstacles? Are the whiskers really new? Aren’t they really just bump sensors? Maybe they have something a little more complicated going on. There was another recent bot that utilized whiskers and compared different tactile profiles to determine what it was touching.

Robot that runs on rat brain cells


Scientists at the University of Reading have created a robot that runs not on microprocessors, but on brain cells extracted from a rat fetus. The robot is equipped with several sensors which stimulate the rat neurons whenever the robot approaches a wall; the response of the neurons then determines whether the robot avoids the wall or crashes into it. The truly fascinating bit is that the rat brain cells don’t automatically know how to respond to the stimuli from the sensors, but instead learn to respond appropriately through repeated stimuli.

No word yet on whether the scientists will teach the robot to sing “Despite all my rage / I am still just a brain in a vat”.

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