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DishBrain’s Semi-Biological Computer Chip Attracts Military Funding: Lab-Grown Brain Cells Capable of Playing ‘Pong’

Jul 28, 2023

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The Australian research team, DishBrain, has been awarded a $600,000 AUD grant to further their innovative work in merging human brain cells with artificial intelligence (AI).

The grant, provided by the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) and the Department of Defence, will support the team's exploration into the field of synthetic biological intelligence.  The DishBrain team, a collaboration between Monash University and Cortical Labs, has already made significant strides in the field.

They've developed lab-grown brain cells capable of playing the vintage video game Pong, demonstrating the potential of programmable biological computing platforms.

This innovative chip, created by scientists at Monash University, integrates approximately 800,000 lab-grown human and mouse brain cells into its electrodes, demonstrating a level of sentience by learning to play the game Pong within five minutes.

The micro-electrode array at the heart of the DishBrain is capable of both reading activity in the brain cells and stimulating them with electrical signals. This unique setup allowed the brain cells to interact with the game, moving the paddle left and right based on a moving electrical stimulus representing the ball's position on the screen.

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This groundbreaking research, conducted in partnership with Melbourne startup Cortical Labs, has the potential to revolutionize the field of artificial intelligence. The fusion of biological computing with AI in these programmable chips could eventually surpass the performance of existing silicon-based hardware, according to project lead, Associate Professor Adeel Razi.

The implications of this research are vast, with potential applications in planning, robotics, advanced automation, brain-machine interfaces, and drug discovery. The DishBrain's advanced learning capabilities could underpin a new generation of machine learning, particularly in autonomous vehicles, drones, and robots.

The team plans to use the grant to develop better AI machines that replicate the learning capacity of these biological neural networks, with the aim of scaling up the hardware and methods capacity to the point where they become a viable replacement for in-silico computing.

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The Australian government has acknowledged these concerns and has launched a review of AI, aiming to establish modern laws for modern technology. The review will focus on ensuring the safe and responsible use of AI, a challenge that the global community is currently grappling with.


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