Researchers from Cortical Labs created mini-brains and taught their cells to play the virtual Pong game, New Scientist reported. It only took five minutes for the living cells to learn, whereas artificial intelligence needed 90 minutes to complete the same task.
In the experiment, scientists have grown about a million living cells of the human brain in the laboratory. They put the cells in a petri dish and placed them on top of a microelectrode array that analyzes neural activity.
To demonstrate the capabilities of mini-brains based on living cells, scientists have created a simplified version of the Pong game, in which you have to hit a ball off the wall with a virtual paddle. A signal was sent to the left or right of the array to indicate the ball's position and the neurons in the brain cells sent signals back to move the paddle. Thus, the neurons of the cells not only responded to the ball's behavior but also placed the paddle correctly to hit it.
In addition, scientists have found that artificial brains are better at this task than artificial intelligence. According to Cortical labs, living cells needed 10 to 15 game sessions to master the game, while artificial intelligence needed about 5,000 sessions. However, when cells played against neural networks, neural networks won.
Brett Kagan, who led the research, called the collection of cells "cyborg brains" because this technology will allow to create biorobots capable of learning in the future.
Cortical Labs is an Australian company that uses synthetic biology to combine living biological neurons with silicon to create new hybrid-biological computer chips.