Robot uses lab-grown brain to perform useful tasks

Chinese scientists have created a robot with a brain made from human stem cells in an effort to develop a “hybrid” machine.

The brain-on-chip technology was developed by researchers from Tianjin University and the Southern University of Science and Technology. It combines a “brain organoid” – a lab-grown tissue derived from human stem cells – with a neural interface chip.

Equipped with this synthetic brain, a toy robot was able to move its limbs, avoid obstacles, grasp objects and learn other useful tasks while exhibiting basic intelligence associated with the biological brain, according to the researchers.

Tianjin University said it was “the world’s first open-source brain-on-chip intelligent complex interaction system,” which could lead to the development of brain-like computing, a priority for China.

“This is a technology that uses an in-vitro cultured ‘brain’ – such as brain organoids – coupled with an electrode chip to form a brain-on-chip,” Ming Dong, the university’s vice president, told China’s Science and Technology Daily.

Brain-on-chip encodes and decodes stimulation feedback, he said, and could “revolutionize” the development of brain-like computing and technologies like hybrid human-robot intelligence.

While brain organoids are regarded as the most promising model of basic intelligence, the technology still faces “bottlenecks such as low developmental maturity and insufficient nutrient supply,” Li Xiaohong, a professor at Tianjin University, told Science and Technology Daily.

The needs of brain organoids are similar to those of a biological brain, including fluids, nutrients, temperature control, and protective casing.

The emerging brain-on-chip technology is part of the accelerating research into brain-computer interfaces, which gained widespread attention thanks to the experiments at Elon Musk’s Neuralink.

The latest breakthrough comes days after scientists in Japan revealed they found a way to transplant engineered skin tissue on the face of a humanoid robot.

In one of the experiments, the team at the University of Tokyo showed the robot fitted with synthetic skin imitating a human smile.