Rat playing DOOM

Rats Learn To Play DOOM In This Automated VR Arena

When we run an article with “DOOM” in the title, it’s typically another example of getting the venerable game running on some minimalist platform. This DOOM-based VR rig for rats, though, is less about hacking DOOM, and more about hacking the rats.

What started as a side project for [Viktor Tóth] has evolved into quite a complex apparatus. At the center of the rig is an omnidirectional treadmill comprised of a polystyrene ball about the size of a bowling ball. The ball is free to rotate, with sensors detecting rotation in two axes — it’s basically a big electromechanical mouse upside down. The rat rides at the top of the ball, wearing a harness to keep it from slipping off. A large curved monitor sits right in front of the rat to display the virtual environment, which is a custom DOOM map.

With the VR rig built, [Viktor] worked on automating the training. A treat dispenser provides the proper motivation, while powered drive wheels engage with the ball to nudge the rat if it gets stuck in the virtual world. [Viktor] says he has trained three rats — [Romero], [Carmack], and [Tom] — to walk down a straight hallway using this automated method. As for the meat of the game — shooting monsters — [Viktor] has that covered too, with a sensor that detects when a rat rears up on its hind legs to register a shot.

Total training time to get the rats to the point seen in the video was about six weeks, and [Viktor] reports the whole thing cost him about $2000. That’s a lot of time and money, but the results are pretty interesting. If you’re more interested in minimalist DOOM builds, we understand — check out DOOM on a lightbulb, or a thermostat, or even a GPS.

Continue reading “Rats Learn To Play DOOM In This Automated VR Arena”